As a nurse I find my rewards in different places—and not all from a job well done by my own standards. I expect perfection of myself—heck, I think everyone expects perfection of those who work as nurses!
The reality is that sometimes I have rough nights where it feels like nothing I do goes right. Like on a recent night on the unit where I missed two IV starts on a difficult patient, had a huge confrontation with a doctor and then to top things off, accidentally put a piece of paperwork containing orders in a wrong patients chart which screwed up not only my own charting but that of a colleague’s (thankfully it was just clerical errors)! I spent the evening close to tears and was again wondering why I chose such a stressful, chaotic job.
Then I went into my patient’s room to say good-bye on my way out the door, only to find her whole family awake and ready for the day (her family members had spent the night after the arrival of her baby). They each repeatedly thanked me for my care and they went on to tell their doctor (yes, the one who I had had the confrontation with) about how great of a nurse I had been with my patient.
This trickled into the doctor thanking me, then later the management thanking me… and I began to realize that actually hearing that I was appreciated and knowing that in most people’s perception I am doing a good job is a huge reward in itself. Thank you gave a new slant to that night as well as induced some more positive feelings in me about my job.
So why are these two words really so important to nurses? I think because we are a helping profession, we need to know that we have actually helped someone. How do we know that if we don’t have some feedback? No, some of our patients are not able to thank us—but we need to hear from our coworkers, management, our families, etc that yes, we are making a difference. Nursing is NOT all about a paycheck—we have to know on some level that what we are doing has changed the life of those we serve, and thank you says it all.