It can be difficult for patients and their loved ones to relate to ICU nurses. For those just passing through, the ICU is a terrifying place, a sign that a worst nightmare has indeed become a reality. And yet, that same place that people so fear is an ICU nurse’s second home, the staff their second family, just as any workplace might be for a dedicated and passionate professional.
That’s not to say, however, that an ICU nurse is desensitized. Yes, ICU nurses live and breathe exceptionally tragic circumstances, but that does not translate into indifference. Unfortunately, there are times when a patient’s friends and family are unable to ascertain the difference.
In a powerful open letter published by The Huffington Post, one ICU nurse responds to the common misconception that nurses are drained of empathy, ultimately painting a truer picture of nurses, both ICU and otherwise, in the process:
Working in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is an experience that can’t quite be put into words. It’s fast-paced, intense, and the stress of some situations can even occasionally make my own heart rate go up as high as one of our trauma patients.
Some people love us. Some people hate us. I can promise you that you do not want to be a patient in my unit. If you are, then that means you’re really sick. But I can also promise you that if you end up here, you will get stellar care by a team of the best healthcare providers available.
Often times we may act a little wacky, though. We may seem rude at times. Maybe you catch us acting totally inappropriate for the situation at hand. Maybe you’ve even thought, “How can they act that way with all this going on with my family member?”
Well, we have our reasons. Following is a letter to the families of ICU patients everywhere.
Dear Disenchanted Family Member of My ICU Patient,
So you walked in to me singing a song out loud as I hung that IV medicine, huh? You were a little bewildered, and thought, “Is that from The Sound of Music? Why is she so inappropriately jolly considering my dad has a tube down his throat?!”
First off, it is The Sound of Music. After all, these are a few of my favorite things.
But seriously, I’m not singing for my own satisfaction. What you don’t realize is I’m singing to calm my nerves, to keep myself relaxed. Your dad almost died before I let you back. I’m concerned for him, but I don’t want you to see that on my face. I don’t want you to worry about him. That’s my job. I just want you to love him.
I know you just heard us laughing and cracking a joke in the hall. I get it. You don’t see anything funny with your mom being confined to that bed, attached to all those monitors.
I understand. I do. I hope you can understand that while you were waiting outside, unaware, we saved the young woman next door. She couldn’t breathe. Now she can. We didn’t think we’d get the breathing tube down in time….
We also restarted the heart of the man across the hall. We shocked him so many times, and I actually broke his ribs. Just when we were afraid it wouldn’t restart, it did.
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