Today is Nurse Appreciation Day. I've had it marked on my calendar and have spent a lot of time this week thinking about what I would like to say. I have been a Doula for 8 years and have attended births at 10 different hospitals in the greater Cleveland area. I am pleased to say that the vast majority of my encounters with our local nurses has been nothing but fantastic. We are so blessed to have so many caring and compassionate nurses.
Nursing is hard. The schooling is hard, the hours are hard, the work is hard. It is both physically and emotionally draining. Often times they are doing shift work which, if you've ever had to do that, it's literally the pits. Many of them work 12 hour shifts and on a busy day are lucky to get a lunch break, let alone time to sit. I can remember the days when I worked at our local hospital, running into the nursing lounge to shove a packet of saltine crackers in my mouth, chase them with a glass of orange juice and head back to work. That was my "lunch break". We had a wonderful nursing supervisor who would occasionally order us a pizza so we could run in and grab a bite without leaving the floor on the days when we had an outrageously busy surgery schedule. Nurses work on the weekends and they work on the holidays. There is no calling off for bad weather.
Nurses wear many different hats. They went to school to be professional caregivers, to help people. What I bet most didn't realize is that they would also be housekeepers, secretaries, gate keepers and peace keepers. They are accustomed to a wide variety of patient personalities; from the person who wants ALL the drugs RIGHT NOW, to the woman with the 10 page birth plan, to the scheduled cesarean. They strive to keep their patients happy while also complying to their hospital and doctor's policies. ( As a Doula I know that can be difficult sometimes and may I just say I work very hard to make sure my clients understand the hospital policies before they birth there and that if they choose to write a birth plan, that it is realistic for the setting in which they are choosing to birth in. I also encourage them to take it to their providers before birth to address any concerns before the big day!)
Labor and Delivery nurses are a different breed of nurses though. The dynamics of a labor and delivery room are always changing. Although families are there to have babies, the way in which it unfolds can be unpredictable. We are saddened when someone dies, and we are even more saddened when it's a child. A little person who did not get to snuggle into their mothers breast or have the sunshine touch their face. Often times as a Doula I have had people say to me, "Wow, your job sounds so fun; you get to watch babies be born!" I know the same words are said to these nurses. But the fact of the matter is sometimes it's not fun. Sometimes its horrible and heart wrenching. These nurses support families through, miscarriages, preterm births, stillbirths, births with congenital defects and other traumatic experiences. Of course they witness positive, empowering births as well, but not always, and at the end of the day they still have to go home to their families. They go to their children's baseball games, the grocery store, date night with their partner or even into the next delivery room, with a smile on their face even moments after a somber or traumatic experience. I have cried with these nurses. I have cried in hallways with nurses as we watched babies be whisked off to the NICU, uncertain of their fate. I have cried with nurses as we watched a mother bring new life into the world with her own hands. I have cried with these nurses as a mother experienced a successful and empowering VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), or watching a mother find relief after a cesarean once her baby was laid on her chest.
Nurses love what they do; they have to! Why else would they choose such a physically and emotionally demanding job unless they were passionate about caring for others? So to all the nurses I have had the pleasure of working with, thank you for all you do. Thank you for getting anesthesia ASAP. Thank you for standing there holding the monitor so mom could labor hands and knees for a while, for emptying the emesis basin and for the warm blanket. Thank you for providing confidence and reassurance when a mother is discouraged. Thank you for the praise when a woman calmly works through one more contraction. Most of all, thank you for welcoming me into your work space and helping my clients to achieve the best experiences possible.
Danielle Breach CD(DONA)