This is a healthy brain:
This is your brain on nursing:
That’s right! You don’t HAVE a brain on nursing! Especially night shift. I call it “night brain;” you can’t form sentences, you forget how to use words, you misspell simple things, the sunlight burns, dull headaches are constant, and overall you are the walking dead. My boyfriend, bless him, is patient and kind but he still doesn’t understand how absent I am after a shift. He takes a shower, sips coffee, starts to recount last evening’s events with friends and continues to outline his plan for today. Then he turns and asks pleasantly what I’d like for breakfast.
You also have strange cravings after work. The sicker my patients are, and especially if I have a death, I come home desperate for food. I ravage the cupboard for anything that’s available. It usually leads to a strange mixture of things:
There are silly moments at work when you finally take a breath only to look down and see something ridiculous in your hand. When did I pick up a half eaten jello cup? God, I hope it’s mine and not a patient’s. I run around the floor gathering supplies for a room. I set things down and suddenly realize what I’m carrying and how:
Carrying a Zofran syringe you’ve yet to administer in a cup of a ice seems absurd but I only have so many hands. Then there are the less funny, unsafe things you do like starting to drive out of the garage when you realize your sun reflectors are still against your windshield. I’ve also called the floor from my car to ask if they’ve seen my cell phone (think about that one for a minute).
Your humor borders on delirium. What other people might walk past in the break room, not paying any mind to the scattered items about, you spend 5 minutes staring at it, contemplating how this tiny shelf can encompass everything you struggle with as a nurse (the desire to get rid of your patients and the need for coffee):
These moments are innocently entertaining. They pass the time at work, form a sense of camaraderie among nursing peers and overall, make you feel human. It is a valuable thing to remember in the profession. Too many people dub nurses as “superheros” and “angels.” We are not. We are human. If everyone remembered that once and a while perhaps the expectation to perform beyond our capacity as mortals wouldn’t lead to such burn out.