Lois Corcoran, BSN, PCCN, is pursuing a master of science in nursing degree and works on a cardiac step-down unit. Although Nurses Week recently ended, we felt that this short, honest post sums up the way a lot of nurses seem to feel.

via flickr creative commons/by you me

via flickr creative commons/by you me

I have been a nurse for 18 years. I went to nursing school when I was 33 years old, a year after I’d completed treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. I was a single mom, newly divorced, trying to make my way.

Becoming a nurse felt like my calling. I was passionate about it. I had been through so much, and I knew I had a lot to give back—I wanted to be with patients, holding their hands, giving them the reassurance we so desperately want to hear when we are going through ill health. I knew that I could be that nurse. I felt that my cancer had been the portal to this realization, opening my eyes and heart to what patients need.

Eighteen years later the truth of my life as a nurse is a little more complicated. It’s not that my original soul’s calling isn’t still there, deep inside me. I still feel a close connection with my patients. I still take the time to be present with them, hold their hand, look into their eyes, and speak to them in a calm, respectful way that lets them know I am here.

But today, this is done at a higher price. It costs the hospital more money because I often have to forgo my lunch break and stay later at night to finish up the required aspects of nursing such as charting. This is okay with me, though I am paying a higher price as well as I watch my body break down, my joints and muscles aching.

For me, however, this is not about Medicare reimbursement, or length of stay, or outliers. If this were what’s motivating me, then who would really be caring for the patients? They’d be left without an advocate. Each shift starts with a silent prayer for the strength and the patience I need to care for my patients. Each shift ends with a silent prayer thanking God that I have made it through a shift and made my best effort. My patients get more of me than anyone else.

So, for Nurses Week, the only week out of 52 others in which nurses get to be acknowledged, I don’t want a cookie, an ice cream cone (I do love ice cream), a towel, an umbrella, a four-dollar coupon to use in the cafeteria. I don’t want a poster, or a sign or a visit from nursing administration.

I just want what I need to care for my patients.

  • I want ancillary help that can help my patient when I can’t get to them immediately.
  • I want working equipment, rolling computers that don’t cause cervical spine spasms as I attempt to push them down the hallway.
  • I want my managers and supervisors to know how hard I am working to take care of my patients, whose illness and hospitalization is making the hospital money.
  • I want sincerity, authenticity, empathy, and support. Yes, I do know my job includes updating my boards and signing my hourly rounding sheets. I am dancing as fast as I can to meet expectations! I want to do it all perfectly.

This year, Nurses Week is bittersweet for me. I am struggling more now than ever. I am not interested in the fanfare as the hospital is celebrating me—at events that, often, I can’t attend anyway because I can’t get off the unit. I just want some support. I just want to take care of my patients, and maybe get a lunch break on any given day. I just want to be heard.

No, I don’t want any gifts. I just want to take care of my patients.