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I’m not sure what happened.  I was doing fine with night shift, didn’t like the job necessarily but I was moving at a steady pace, not overly annoyed by much.  Then I went on a 2 week vacation and when I came back, it’s like I’m not even entering the same time continuum.

I think there are a few reasons for this:

  1. Three night nurses are leaving (yes, the cool ones), and four day nurses are leaving (don’t care about them much but it stresses the floor out).  Also, two of my favorite techs are leaving.  So, at the end of June, I’m going to be alone in my sarcastic, morbid humor with no one to commiserate with.
  2. My body was reminded what jet lag feels like and how similar that feeling is to night shift.  Now, no matter how much sleep I get, I feel perpetually tired, achy and jet-laggy.
  3. I’ve had bad patients lately.  Most patients on my floor are horribly mean, overly needy and extremely unpleasant people.  Many nurses and techs feel the same way, which is why retention is so bad on our floor.  It makes you more tired, more angry, more annoyed, basically more of all the bad stuff.
  4. My dad gave me a parrot.  It’s stressing the hell out of me.

I had an end of life care patient a couple of weeks ago.  He was asking for more and more morphine through the night and I knew why: that morning, he was speaking to hospice about the specifics of his care once he goes home.  He was in a state of dread, an impending fear was growing.  I asked what I could do for him.  He said, “You can sit and talk to me until the end of your shift.”  It was 5AM; there was no way I could do that.  I told him I would be back in an hour.  At 6AM, I spent 30 minutes at his bedside discussing the weather, sports, what I do on my off time, if he was scared to die, what worries him most about leaving the world.

What will happen to my wife when I’m gone.  I worry about that.

Men always say that on their death bed.  Sometimes their kids but interestingly, it’s almost always the wife.  We spoke more for a while, sat in silence, then I said:  “I’m 30.  If I live to be 80, that means I’ll have 50 years to think about this moment.  For half a century I will think of you.  I want you to remember that.”

This is where most nurses would say, “It’s these moments.  These moments make it all worth it.”  I disagree.  Nothing makes my job worth it unless you’d like to to pay me at least double with a guaranteed 5-10% raise each year pending performance review (an actual performance review, not a discussion on how many online modules I’ve completed and why didn’t I attend the “Respect in the Workplace” seminar?)   I’m a nurse.  Give me a raise based on my performance as such, not on whether I can sit in front of a screen or auditorium pretending to pay attention to a topic that a mentally challenged dolphin could figure out.

However, these moments do have a critical influence on me because they remind me of the most important fact of life: it is unpredictable.  When you spend most days with the sick and the dying , you gain a unique perspective on your own life.  All I know and have ever known is that I will never, ever live in fear.  I will never stay in one place out of fear of trying something else, out of fear of “reprimanding from my boss” or losing ground professionally or personally.

If nursing has done nothing else for me it has done that.  It has acted as a brutal reminder that I am going to live my life or die trying.