Rite of Passage

Tomorrow marks two years since I’ve been working as a registered nurse. It’s an odd sort of anniversary to acknowledge. Sometimes I reflect on how much I’ve changed since I sat down in that interview as a fresh-faced new grad. Two years of pill crushing, IV pushing, wound packing, catheter inserting, blood transfusing, tube feed priming, telemetry monitoring, electrolyte balancing, and the countless other tasks that make up a single shift. I have been tested in ways I did not think possible; forced to suppress my fatigue, frustration, and emotion for the sake of carrying on my profession’s name. I have met many people I do not like, patients and fellow staffers alike, which has raised my poker face game to par. More importantly, I have connected with a select few who have reminded me on the daily that I am not alone. And in a hospital, when your job is an actual life-and-death situation every time you clock in, that is what has made all the difference. They have helped me to laugh when all I’ve wanted to do is cry; they have shared my load when I felt my shoulders sag; they have kept that creative, goofy, free-spirited part of me whole when I was so sure she would crack.

So, if any fellow nurses are reading this and feeling lost or blue or like they are sinking in quick sand, all I can pass on is three words that have had a profound impact on me: you’re not alone. Even on the worst day of your life when nothing has gone right from the second you stepped off the elevator, remember walks in the sunshine and ice cream in the summer. When you’ve just witnessed your first code and your hands can’t seem to stop shaking, recall the thrill of airplane rides and packed suitcases and maps in foreign languages. When you’ve been called a stupid bitch by a patient for the first time, imagine the smell of brewed coffee in the morning and the satisfying sound of wine being uncorked. When it all becomes too much, take a deep breath and remember that this too shall pass. Remind yourself of who you are, what ignites your soul, what dreams you carry. Seek refuge with your best friends. Plan a road trip. Call your grandmother. You are more than a pair of scrubs and a badge. The future can be daunting but beautiful too. The world is a big place and there is always room to pull up a chair. Sometimes that requires a little courage but eventually, we all get there in the end.

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