A Few of Nursing’s Side Effects

  1. You think you can prevent disasters. That’s because you prevent disasters hundreds of times per shift. Every time you double check a dose, every time you defuse an angry visitor, every time you teach a newer colleague you avert a potential disaster.
  2. You see the perspective of every patient, family member, tech and physician and automatically begin to prioritize tasks for maximal safety and comfort.
  3. You quickly develop a practical set of ethics, because you don’t have time to mull things over. You make decisions from that ethical base all night and day. People ask you to bend the rules and skirt safeguards.
  4. Your intuition develops, but you know how to back it up with measurable data. Data is needed for decisions, so you know how to get it, and FAST.
  5. You put your needs far back on the to-do list because vulnerable people need you. It’s hard to shed the superhero cape when you clock out.
  6. You learn to deal with disappointment. When you teach people how to care for themselves, and they don’t follow through, you may get angry. You have to shut that down to figure out why. Then you determine what you can do to fix that “why”.
  7. Burnout! Because you can’t fix everything. Processing emotion is exhausting work. You are facing a double shift tomorrow and can’t be exhausted. So you disengage.
  8. You read between the lines. You don’t take machines readouts at face value. You don’t take people’s words at face value all the time. Synthesizing information is as critical as gathering it.
  9. You know more about group dynamics than you ever wanted to know. Families and nurse’s stations teach you to sense an emotional temperature before you even enter a room.
  10. You know more about insurance, bureaucracy, and the effects of legislative whim than you ever wanted to know. You are caring for the collateral damage of failed systems and social structures, one family at a time, in procession.
  11. You quickly get on a first-name basis with people because they are bleeding, vomiting, and excreting in your presence. You try to maintain their dignity despite all that.
  12. You learn that you have to let go. You can spend hours trying to save a life, then switch to reducing discomfort as life leaves them, then switch to tasks related to the death of that person. There are decisions to make throughout that process and always, there is work to do.
  13. You learn to handle persistent stereotypes like this.

There are so many colorful stories behind this list. I can only give you my conclusions.