“You may not always take your work home with you, but you take your nurse self everywhere.”
Diane Stonecipher, BSN, RN, lives in Austin, Texas.
The proverbial “what do you do?” always flummoxed me. My answer was usually some variation on this: “I used to be a nurse, but I have not worked outside the home while I’ve been raising my sons.”
But most people stopped listening after the “I used to be.” Sure, I could recite some things that I had done during the intervening years, but they were not really vocations I could make a claim to.
Even my children, who I had after first being a nurse for 15 years, never thought of me as a nurse. I did not leave the house for work, I did not get paid, I did not gripe about my job (in front of them), and I was available to them 24/7.
There are many professions that lend themselves to being a good mother. There are many interests, talents, and personalities that contribute to good mothering skills. Look at nature and you will see incredible maternal gifts in every species.
Still, I can’t help but think that I have been a better mother because I am a nurse and that my children have benefited in various ways. My eldest, a medically fragile, blind quad, received daily nursing care as well as his mother’s love and advocacy. Daily head-to-toe assessments found stuck eyelashes and kept skin breakdown from happening even once. Everything was noticed before it needed noticing. Positioning provided safety for spoon-feeding without aspiration. A broader understanding of elimination honed a bowel and bladder program with infrequent enemas, no obstructions, no catheters, and no UTIs.
My younger boys too had all of the benefits of a mother’s instincts, with the added dimension of a nurse’s knowledge: tummies soothed, colds improved, broken bones properly tended, aches and pains explained and healed.
Maybe they all benefited most, though, simply from a nurse’s attention to the little things, to just listening.
I guess I was a bit of the neighborhood nurse as well. I walked frequently in my neighborhood and people began to know that I was a nurse. They felt free to ask about doctor visits they did not understand. They wanted to know about prescriptions they were started on and not sure about. Could I come and take a look at this rash? Does this cut need stitches? Jack’s feet are really swollen. A frantic voice on the phone, describing symptoms, asking “should I call EMS?” A little triage, proper use of OTCs, a smattering of wound care, and a little emergency medicine—people often just didn’t have access to their doctors or had so many they didn’t know which one to call.
I am now back in the workforce, the one outside of my home. Although the physical landscape has changed, nursing skills remain constant. These skills are the foundation of our practice. Patience, diligence, ability to listen, seeing the big picture, assessing detail by detail, providing comfort in any setting—all of these qualities help us increase our knowledge base.
I’ve found myself in a university setting, dealing with a population that has just recently left home. It’s a far cry from my roots in cardiovascular care, but I feel at home. I am grateful to be surrounded by thoughtful, competent, smart nurses in varying stages of their careers.
You may not always take your work home with you, but you take your nurse self everywhere.