Support Your Local Nurses

A friend of mine and I were "talking" this week and she was telling me about her Christmas Day as a nurse. She works in a hospital here in Saskatchewan, and it's been anything but great for her.

I realize sick people can be pushy and angry and demanding, she does too, but there has gotta be limits on how nasty we can be, and still be human.

With her permission she wrote:

My Christmas was spent at work taking care of sick people. A few highlights of today were:
- our department was so overwhelmed with patients that we didn't get a break - I worked 14 hours and the only time I sat down was when I had to pee
- I listened to people complain about the wait all day and take out their anger on myself and coworker and hear them turn into simpering happy people the moment the doctor walked into the room
- I took care of a drug overdose that when woke up called me every name in the book plus a few more that I didn't know about, fought, kicked, spat - I'm the proud owner of several new bruises, and a sprained wrist.
- patients daughter yelled screamed at us for holding patient - and had the nerve to call the RCMP to report us - hence lots of paperwork - and then daughter ran off when RCMP went to arrest her
- followed by another patient that after waiting 10 minutes proceeded to tell me what a worthless human being I was because the doctor hadn't see them (they came in by ambulance but weren't actually as ill as other patients, despite this being explained, I was again physically threatened, and verbally abused,
- the hospital was suppose to give us a platter of food for nights - our department was completely missed
- and the cherry to this day was coming home to read an email from someone I hadn't talked to in six months rubbing it in my face they were getting married so basically whatever Christmas gift I had gotten was worthless and beaten by their engagement.
- dare I mention I have a cold? And by the end of my shift my coworkers were fearful for my health?

I know the nurses in this province are overworked and life is anything but easy. Systems drive people ruthlessly and the larger the system, the less accountability there is. So we need to humanize the health care system a bit better than we are. And that starts with us.

Yes I know we can get desperate and tired and broken, but so are many of the front line people, like nurses.

Give them a break, cut them some slack, support them, encourage them, bless them, and most of all, just cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for them and their work, rather than sharpening an attitude of entitlement that makes you think you have a right to mistreat them.

To those who are there on days when they would rather be elsewhere, thank you. Because you are there, my life is a good one.

Thank you.


  1. I've never understood why people think, no matter their pain, discomfort or situation, they have the right to treat another human being like that. Especially if it is some you are counting on to help you.

    Unfortunately the squeaky wheel often gets the grease far sooner than the other wheels in the same need of TLC. It still doesn't give people the right to behave like that.

  2. Such abuse makes no sense to me. Maybe it's because I know what science and medicine are really like that I can't see how this behaviour helps anyone.

  3. I am a nurse... have been for nearly 40 years. Why anyone would choose this profession now is beyond me. When I first entered nuring in the late 60's, it was a respected altho' underpaid profession. I found the shift work very difficult to adjust to. Back then, your shifts were assigned by seniority. My first month had 13 night shifts and 7 evenings. I was unable to get a day off for my best friend's wedding so I traded with another girl , worked all night, went out of town to the wedding and got back in time to work again at 11pm. There was little reguard for your personal life. That takes a high toll over the years.
    I have worked hemodyalysis, labour and delivery, neonatal, emergency and spent 13 years as a supervisor in a prison Medical Unit. I left there 4 years ago, broken and defeated. I dealt daily with abuse, but mostly it was the system that was abusive. There was no place to turn when the staffing was inadequate. The "managers" were on a bonus system that offerred them $$$ if their department came in under budget. Do you think they cared if we were overwhelmed? I have stood in a cell (several times) where a young man who had given up hope was hanging , while the guards mocked my tears. I know it is a coping mechanism for them and I could feel myself hardening to all the despair. I had to leave... my health and spirit were suffering. I hated the person I was becomming. Other nurses offer little in the way of support as they live in "Survival mode"... unable to hear or bear anyone else's suffering. The profession needs to take a long , hard look at why women don't go down this road any more. It exacts a very high cost on your marriage but nobody warns you about that when they put the cap on your head and hand you the roses. I never encouraged my daughters to be nurses... they never even considered it. They had watched while I went off to work on Christmas and tried to sleep when the rest of the world was awake. There have been rewards, to be sure, but overall, I feel taken advantage of and undervalued. I am still nursing, although not in an acte care setting any longer. The same problems exist... abuse of sick time, under staffing, family-unfriendly work arrangements. We travel out of town to do overnight blood donor clinics and don't get any remuneration for being away from home, even if you are paying a sitter for 48 hours, you will only get paid for when you are actually working. How do you think that works for a single mom ?The staff turnover is incredible... one third of our nurses left in the last year so we are always training new ones or working short. The public expects prompt, cheerful serevice.
    Sorry for the rant but this really opened up a sore spot for me. For $30 bucks an hour, we subject ourselves and our families to this. There was a time when the rewards outweighed the sacrifice but not any more. Nursing has become a big technological buisness and lost the human touch. I wished I had become a secretary. Then the biggest mistake you make would not cost someone their life. That is another constant companion..fear . wondering am I too tired to make good decisions.? Knowing that you are exhausted and only a few hours into your shift. One lesson I learned was to find the joy and reward in the little kindnesses . Would you pass this on to your nures friend. Tell her I understand, I know what it takes from you and that she will have to replenish her tank on her own.. the system won't do it for her. She will need to find her strenghth in her co-workers and somewhere deep inside herself where the motivation to first become a nurse lies buried.

  4. It is sad that so many nurses feel so badly about their profession. It is sad that they do not get the kind of praise that most people feel they deserve for the work they do. It is sad that abusive people seem to outnumber those that are reasonable and kind.

    When Rachelle ended up in hospital this Christmas, we were very thankful for the prompt way that she was taken care of. She was kept as comfortable as possible till her surgery could take place. She isn't always known for her patience but she knew that she was being taken care of - in fact she and Asen remarked that being in a smaller hospital was nicer than being in the more impersonal bigger city hospital.

    And yeah - they were short staffed.

    Maybe we need to find a way to say thank-you. Maybe that would do some small part toward encouraging those nurses that really care - to not give up caring in spite of the discouragement and abuse they have to take at times.

  5. I have considered getting into nursing, even quite recently. After my husband spent a week in the hospital last month I was glad to see he got good care. But I think the nurses probably liked caring for him because he is very considerate and only used his call button when it was absolutely necessary (I even had to encourage him to use it a couple of times when he didn't think he should...). After reading all this I don't think I would want to be a nurse.

  6. I am in the process of going to school for Nursing...this almost made me change my mind...almost. There is a bigger purpose behind my reasons. I have an agenda, or rather, God has an agenda.

    Food for thought though, bear in mind that I completely appreciate where you are both coming from as I all ready work in the hosptial and see on a first hand basis how nursing staff is treated, I wonder if we should be discouraging people from becoming Nurses as it only adds to being short staffed, over worked and under rested. As I ask this question, remember that this does come from my lack of experiencing it and only witnessing it. It is merely something that I wonder. Please, as I am entering this career, take what I say as it simply is...questions from one who wants to know in a completely genuine and sincere manner.

  7. Ang, don't let it change your mind, but let it make you more, I dunno, more aware maybe.

    The comparison may make no sense but there are times and places in which it would not be advisable to be a pastor, just the nature of the place and or the people.

    It is a good reminder of the great difficulties and demands placed on nurses these days.

    And yeah, we still need nurses, especially those who know the difficulties involved in being one. I appreciate that "Just Me" is trying their hardest to stay in the profession, even if it means doing it more part time.

    Keep following your dream, just do it with a clearer understanding of the demands required.

    Hang in there, all of you.
    We need you.

  8. And thanks Linda for sharing your heart and experience.

    I can't imagine living a life having to carry that kind of pain and frustration, especially with systems that are so immovable and unforgiving.

    Thank you for telling your story. It helps those considering the profession to consider it carefully.

  9. Yes to both of the ladies that did share their stories, I should make known that I do appreciate knowing how it feels and affects one first hand so I don't go in there blind sided. I won't let it discourage me. I know the calling I have on my life and it just doesn't want to go even when I tried to convince myself that it wasn't worth it...

  10. Hey Ang. I'm glad we didn't discourage you from going into nursing. I still have a love of the profession that comes out. For example recently I looked after someone and caught something that had been missed. That made me happy, I caught something and now that patient should get better. I also held the hand of someone that died alone because the family couldn't get there in time. While sad, I feel a sense of fulliment that at least I was there to hold their hand and talk to them, until their heart stopped.

    It's just like I said though, my personality and nursing really don't fit well. And unfortunately it's taking a huge toll on me, trying to fit myself into a mold I'm so not part of.

    May I pass a couple of little tidbits to you?
    - team up with a senior nurse - they are fountains and fountains of information
    - ask questions - the more of a interest you show to learn, the less the senior staff worries about you, and hence don't ride you as hard (we don't mean to be mean or rude to our new staff, but those that never ask questions and make mistakes are often not tolerated, it's not safe for patients)
    - have a voice, don't be a blind sheep in the pack, you see something that needs change speak up for it.
    - find a good doctor and learn from them

    And two books I highly recommend - Intensive Care :The Story of a Nurse and Condition Critical: Story of a Nurse Continues by Echo Heron. They are great books. The first one you will probably identify with as it's her starting her career and school. When I read the second one I thought I will never get to that point, and yet here I am at that point! Also she wrote Tending Lives - a collection of biography nursing stories.

    Don't get me wrong, and I don't know how to explain it, I still love the science, I'm just so very tired of dealing with people and that's what's leading me away from the profession.

    Good luck on your studies.

  11. hey good one JM.

    That's a great primer for wannabe nurses. Thanks for taking the time to add it to the discussion.

    I really hope you are able to keep your hand in nursing somehow. You're exactly the kind of nurse I'd want in my room if I was sick.

  12. Thank you for the advice Just Me and I will be sure to follow it and to get my hands on those books. As I said before I do appreciate hearing how you are feeling about it as it is nice to not be blindsided by something.


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