Hi, how are you? I'm Elli, I'm your nurse, I'll be looking after you today.
EVERY shift, EVERY patient, EVERY day.
This is my most commonly used phrase as a nurse, closely followed by ...'If you need anything at all just buzz!' accompanied by a sweet smile and me thinking but please don't get too excited on that buzzer. No one likes a busy buzzer!
How good does it feel to be looked after? To be told someone is going to take care of you? Everyone wants to be cared for. Especially when they are in hospital, sick, injured, scared. Even MORE so if it's your baby or child. Hospitals are SCARY. Scary things happen there! For a lay person who doesn't understand the beeps and the bings and the treatments and WAITING times, it can be an intensely stressful environment. For a mum who's a NURSE it's even more stressful! Yes...I am referring to myself. I see the looks, overhear the comments....it's not eavesdropping I swear! It's just being in tune with the environment.
I'm so grateful for the incredible care Oli always receives however theres something thats just been on my mind. It's been niggling away at me and I just have to get it out and hopefully my nursey and midwife friends will read this and share their thoughts too.
I'll take you back to Friday, picture this. Me - a ball of nerves, borderline hyper. Ian - a ball of nerves but hiding it well! Oli - two years old...enough said! Ruby - sleeping in capsule...forget about her! Haha But you get my picture? Nervous parents, and a toddler who probably won't like anything you are trying to do. In comes our nurse who is looking at her paperwork and says 'Hi, I'm _____ any allergies?' and straight into the history.
Do NOT get me wrong this nurse was nice, she knew her stuff and was clearly efficient but theres just one little thing!!!!
A smile?! A little bit of friendly small talk???? A 'hi how are you, I'm sure you are nervous don't worry it will all be fine! I'm here if you need anything blahblahblah' That would have taken me from about level 10 to a level 2 in the stress ranks. Instead it was the volunteer, a familiar face from previous years that I felt comforted by. All it took was a friendly smile and 'how are you?' Thats ALL it takes!
I had the privilege of supervising some nursing students last year. The main thing they struggled with? Friendliness! They lacked the chatty, small talk, friendly, SMILEY knack that is SO important for nurses to possess!
I'm certainly not saying I'm perfect. Of course everyone has their really busy, shitty shifts. Understaffed, a million patient load, drowning in work, missed medications, coordinators a real beeep haha. But these are the days that its more important. The days you NEED to smile to your patients, to your women and to the scared and nervous parents. To connect and say 'hey I'm human' A bloody busy human but I'm here if you need me'
There is no greater lesson in how to be a loving nurse than being on the other side. I can tell you the nurses names who I have felt so well cared by over the past few years. The few who I can say truly LOVED looking after Oli. Imagine how hard it is leaving your newborn baby in a hospital? It's excruciatingly painful but - when you have a beautiful, loving nurse its that much easier.
I love being a nurse. I love the connection with people, I love being that person who can reach out my hand and provide comfort. I don't have the years of experience like my seniors, I don't have all those nursing skills down to a fine art, I can't answer all the curly questions or give you a detailed description of anatomy and physiology. But you know what I can do?
Smile, take a minute to find out how you REALLY are, make friendly chatter and provide you comfort. I PRIDE myself in being the bubbly nurse who in one job was often thought to be slacking off somewhere but was in fact hanging in rooms chatting to old ladies about their lives and families. I can tell you names and stories from my clients with Alzheimers from 8 years ago because I truly CARED. I listened and smiled and enjoyed their company. It may have been in the back of a moving mini bus, trying to supervise 5 oldies and their fast melting 30 cent ice cream cones from HJ's for the ride home BUT nevertheless I listened, I laughed, I smiled, and I cared.
It's so easy to be nice. It makes your day so much more enjoyable. Patients and families can relate to you, are easier to talk to and less stressed. A family who is relaxed and feels comforted by you is so much easier to care for. Yes, I have on many occasions avoided rooms because 'uuugh the family from hell are in there!' But I force myself in with a smile and try to put myself in their shoes. Hey sometimes people are just nasty but I'm guessing 95% of the time they are under so much stress that its being projected as unsavoury behaviour.
One day I will pull on my scrubs again. When I do I will reflect on all of these lessons I've learnt through being a parent. This is the most traumatic time of a patients life. Or perhaps the most beautiful as they bring their baby into the world. Both scenarios share the vulnerability, the scared feelings, the nerves. It may feel like just another day in the office to us but I can assure you in the patients life its their entire world.
My friend recently told me that as she arrived in labour, her midwife greeted her and said something along the lines of "you are safe here, this is a safe place" Doesn't that just melt you?! I haven't stopped thinking about it since she told me weeks ago because those words are SO COMFORTING. They comforted me and I wasn't even there!
We, as nurses have the power to make or break our patients experiences. Let's make them. All it takes is a smile and those beautifully comforting words...
"I'm going to take care of you"