No angels here

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One stereotype of nursing (and it’s perpetuated by nurses as well as by those not in the medical or nursing fields) that bothers me is that of nurses as “angels of mercy.”

We’re expected to smile while up to our elbows in bloody shit and vomit; be pleasant to rude and sometimes violent people; put up with crap from doctors, managers, patients, their families, nurse techs and janitors—yet keep our cool, never cry, never sweat, never lose our tempers with each other, always be prepared and be right there when we are needed.

We’re expected to be a “cool hand on a fevered brow” or a sweet smile in a time of difficulty, or a shoulder to cry on—every day, every minute, every hour.

Look, I love being a nurse. I love being able to make you feel better. And when I have time (i.e., when I have less than 12 patients all screaming my name and falling on the floor—and not in a rock-star Beatles type of way), I can get you a pillow and tuck you in, and be that cool hand.

But sometimes I’m having a bad day: received bad news from family, got up late, working my third 12-hour shift in a row, have to pee, hungry, got spat on six times already. I’m a human being. I have a family and a life outside of this hospital, although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

So when this happens, you can count on me to be as kind to you as I can, and to be professional and to do my job.

But pardon me if my wings are not unfurled as majestically as you’d like, and if my halo is a little tarnished. I got some melena on it during the last GI bleed and I haven’t quite gotten it to the laundry yet.

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