Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

Thoughts and ideas on healthcare

Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more. Subscribe below to get email notices so you won't miss any great content.

Living the Life of a Nurse

May 12, 2017

nurse burnout copyThis past summer I was on the faculty of a retreat in California for Oncology nurses. It was a three-day weekend event, drawing nurses from Northern, Southern, and Central California.

The retreat was all about self-care, about defining and recovering from burnout — about living the life of a nurse.

A nurse at the retreat told a story about one day after driving home after her shift, she had to drive around the block several times before she could emotionally and physically go inside to her spouse and kids.

She was caring for critically ill patients and that day, two had died. She didn’t have much of herself left to care for her family.

And yet, for her, it was not about burnout. It was about being a nurse.

What It’s Like to Be a Nurse

This week I read a blog post by Amelie West titled, “Happy Nurses’ Week,” that detailed a day in the life of a nurse. She started by describing some of her 10 years of experience as a nurse:

“I’ve spent the last seven years working in a medical ICU, and I’ve seen and done so much. I counseled a bewildered husband on withdrawing care on his cancer-stricken wife. I got in a fight with a hematologist who insisted we transfuse a man who kept going into pulmonary edema. I’m convinced my antagonism prevented an intubation. I’ve pushed morphine, and through tears, told a widow-to-be to hold her husband’s hand while he breathed his last. They were both 28. ”

West goes on to tell about the administration at the hospital deciding that nurses don’t have enough empathy, requiring them to take workshops and holding them accountable for satisfaction survey scores.

Safety & Care of Patients Come First

From spending years working with nurses, I have witnessed the fact that they are so committed to their patients, they know no coffee break, no lunch break, barely can go to the bathroom, and often call into their unit to check on their patients long after their shift. The safety and care of their patients are their sole concern.

The lack of understanding and acknowledgment of the depth of commitment and toll the very work takes on each nurse is widespread across healthcare.

When I hear about nurses going on strike because their patient load is too high, it is not about too much work.  Rather, they fear patients will die because their time and attention are stretched into the red zone.

I celebrate National Nurse’s Week not with single applaud or tweet.

Rather, I stand in awe of the work nurses like Amelie West do each day, every shift, in getting into the depths of suffering of each patient, regardless of whether the end is discharge or death. I’m grateful she shared her experiences with us.

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