On Being a Nurse

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

Art Williams

This anxiety that is my constant companion of late scrapes it’s nails across my chest. It hangs at the corners of my mouth. It paces and wrings its hands over and over and over wearing a trough in my brain. I don’t eat foods that I should. I don’t sleep well. I don’t pray enough. I don’t spend enough of my day meditating. I don’t exercise enough because it is too cold and there are too many germs at the gym. This anxiety does not just infect me. It is the true pandemic, and it has reached epic proportions. No one is immune.

I reach for my spiritual teachers, our thought leaders and politicians for guidance and hope and all I find is hollow words and a reflection of my own insecurities and confusion. Who do I believe? What do I believe? Who is right and who is shamefully wrong? Can any of us be fully one or the other? Or is it more a complex and appropriate mixture of both?

I tell myself to look inward for answers. I remind myself that love is the only answer no matter the question. Those tried-and-true pathways to peaceful gardens and streams just lead me to empty streets and walls bricked with the crumbling mortar of our cries for someone who can save us, unite us, make it all better. The lies I tell myself are plastered all over billboards in this deserted city I have built a wall of expectations around.

I used to love taking care of people and comforting them in their time of greatest fear. I fear them now. They don’t believe in me anymore. They think I am lying or hiding something, or they think I am just plain stupid. It tears at me this betrayal of faith in what I used to stand for. How? How could you lose your faith in me? Your lack of faith starts to erode my own faith in myself and the purpose I thought I was put here for. I have believed for a very long time that being a nurse was sacred in our communities, our culture, our world. It is not. It is just another lie. When I say I am tired that word doesn’t even begin to describe the desolation I feel at the loss of my identity in your eyes. I am standing here naked and afraid, cast out of your favor. Spit upon and deemed blasphemer. How? Why? When can I go home?

43 thoughts on “On Being a Nurse

  1. I wish the world could read this. Thank you for sharing such a raw glimpse into what you feel and go through on a daily basis ❤️

    1. Thank you for reading it. It was a little scary to share but it is where I see so many of us at right now. ❤️

  2. Wow, that’s some painful overthinking there, Danielle! You’re not alone with the anxiety, the disillusion. Being shared doesn’t make it any less painful, and I wish I could help you with this. Sending psychic hugs. ❤️🤗

    1. Thank you so much. Honestly, writing about it helped so much. I didn’t understand what I was feeling until it all just came out. I really appreciate your support and comment❤️ Psychic hugs received!

  3. I love your post. You are certainly not alone in feeling this way.
    That said, let me offer a few words from my perspective as an old man who still writes health and Medicare insurance. I run into some of the same idiots that you do, and many who you will meet in the future. Some of my clients are nurses, and I listen and let them vent. They need someone to whom they can speak in confidence and I can do that for them.
    You cannot validate your life through the eyes of others. The enigmatic dictate from Theodore Roosevelt rings true: “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” At the close of day, if you’ve done that, you can look back on your day with pride regardless of what some idiot may have said. Don’t try to fix stupid, it’s not possible.
    Your self-worth isn’t a function of what others think.
    Think about it. A lot of illness is self-inflicted. People take unnecessary risks, are careless, choose not to believe in Covid or gravity or physics, binge on drugs, alcohol or sugar, or “assume” a gun is unloaded without checking, or that they can stare at their phone while crossing a street. What right have these “einsteins” to say anything about what you know?
    Now, if you get a person like me as a patient, I may disagree with something, but will do so with respect and courtesy and with research citations from reputable sources.
    Like I said, an old man. Ornery but in a respectful way.

    1. Hi Vic, what a wonderful response. Thank you so much. A lot of that post came from my realization that being a nurse really was something I had an expectation around and for years I absolutely have attached it to my identity. Writing this was sort of a purge and disconnection from that need for validation in someone else’s eyes. It is making me, and countless other nurses, really look at what we became nurses and have stayed in it for so long.

      I am really doing ok. I needed to name my feelings and remember that I don’t need to continue to attach to that identity any longer.
      I greatly appreciate your wise words and I appreciate you take the time to read and comment on this piece.
      And I love taking care of people, ornery or not! ❤️

  4. On January 13th of this year, one month ago today, I was rushed to the hospital. My blood pressure had dropped to 67/59 and I was in a dire strait.

    After many tests and reading and such, the doctors discover a blood clot and both of my lungs. I consented to the emergency procedure and a clot over 24 inches long was removed from my lungs. My life was spared and I was on the road to recovery.

    During my time in CICU, the Nurses there were nothing short of angelic; they took great care of me with due diligence. When I was moved to a private room, the Nurses once again were outstanding. They were helpful and very caring with no outward complaints. They took very good care of me.

    Prior to my hospitalization during this pandemic, I’ve been praying for Nurses and other medical staff. During my hospitalization, my eyes were opened and I truly appreciated the job that Nurses do.

    Thank you so much for the work that you do.

    Stay encouraged and don’t give up!

    1. This brought tears to my eyes. I am so sorry you went through that and I am so glad you had amazing care.
      I appreciate the prayers very much. We all do. Some days are harder than others but we still continue to find our way through.
      Thank you so much for sharing your story and stopping by. Take care of yourself❤️

  5. Thank you. As a pharmacist I feel this too but nowhere near the level that you must be. Sadly I want to leave healthcare completely now. I hope it gets better soon.. I hate what has happened to our professions.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and understanding. I know a lot of folks want to leave healthcare. It is so sad. Take care of yourself and good luck❤️

  6. That’s a flow. That’s a flow that glows with the sentiment of truth. That’s the youth talking to the man about how he am and the way it ain’t supposed to be. That’s about me. Believe.

  7. Beautifully written and so heartfelt. Thank you for caring and your service. We are so grateful for nurses and healthcare workers and wished that you didnt have to feel this way and go through these harsh times. Take care 💕

    1. Michelle, thank you so much for your kind words. I don’t feel this way all the time. There is still so much I love about what I do. It has just gotten so much harder and it wears me down sometimes. I needed to get it out of me and share in case anyone out there felt the same…maybe they wouldn’t…maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone in it.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. ❤️

  8. Hey Danielle. This achingly beautiful. I felt like you were speaking from my own heart about my own struggles. Aircrew have been vilified here in Hong Kong despite the immense sacrifices they have made for the city. I’d like to say I’ve been strong enough to withstand it all but I haven’t. It has crushed my spirit and made me want to leave. That’s what I’m planning to do. It sadness me to hear the same thing is happening towards frontline workers everywhere. Those like you who have made the biggest sacrifices during this pandemic. For what it’s worth – you’re all heroes and heroines to me. Best wishes. 🙏

    1. Hi Andrew, it must be so incredibly stressful what you are going through to. It is incredibly sad that something that brought me so much joy for decades is now a place of disillusionment and exhaustion. There is so much I still love about what I do but I am still not used to being “the enemy.” Writing this and sharing with people like you has helped heal a little piece of that for me so thank you. I am grateful for what you do and I fully commiserate with your need to step away. Thank you for taking the time to read and share your experiences with me. It helps me feel supported and hopefully you do too. ❤️

      1. I believe the feeling of isolation is the worst/most dangerous. Your words let me and others know we are not alone. It certainly helps. Thank you Danielle 🙏

      1. Absolutely! As someone with a lot of health problems, I really appreciate the value of a good nurse. I wouldn’t be alive without them ❤️

  9. Wow! I Nurse to nurse – thank you! This is so well put. Thirty-five years in the profession and it’s only been the last five that my eyes have opened wide to the ugliness creeping around the corporate healthcare arena and those nurses taking on a ‘ I’m looking out for me only’ attitude( that’s a personal one for me due to feeling no teamwork where I used to work).

    Hope things continue to improve for you and you have many more experiences with grateful patients and peers that appreciate your commitment to the profession.

    1. You are so welcome❤️ I really appreciate your response! Seriously. It is getting harder and harder and this pandemic has stretched so many of our colleagues, organizations and healthcare in general to the breaking point. I do have some hope that I am wrong about the continuing nursing shortage but it looks bleak. We do not treat our healthcare workers well. We need to change as a profession or we will be in an even bigger crisis that won’t by due to the pandemic.
      Good luck to you and your continuing journey!! Sending nurse love and support❤️

  10. Danielle, When this is all over, and I hope it soon is, you can take a long and relaxing vacation. You certainly deserve it. I think there is a trend to distrust everyone. People know they have been lied to and have lost trust in all our institutions. Take care! <3

  11. My heart goes out to you.. it’s wrong what’s happening to you and so many. The world has turned upside down.. I hope you can find peace in knowing you are brave and a giver.. you are a hero. What others think does not define you. Remember who you are.. that has not changed. This challenging time will not destroy you, don’t let the pain be your daily bread. Stop being hard on yourself. Shame on those who cause you pain. I am proud of you and we still need you- more than ever. But take a break if you can and go to nature.. I am praying people start showing you and those like you gratitude and compassion. Hugs.

    1. Thank you so much. Your words touched me. I appreciate the love and support from you. It is one of the reasons I posted this. To feel connected to this amazing community where you don’t have to always put on the brave face. I am incredibly grateful to you for reading and your comment❤️

    2. Truthfully I cannot fathom to understand what you and every health worker is going through. It does take a toll unimaginable. While we worry about our own well being or that of our loved ones, our nurses and doctors are carrying the weight of an entire society and the weight is so very mighty. You need to rest as well, and take out time for yourself. You are but human.
      Wishes and gratitude.

  12. I can feel your ache and all that you are going through. I have heard heart-wrenching stories from my son, critical care and pulmonary diseases, physician.
    Praying for you and all the frontline workers and sending best wishes your way.
    Please keep believing in the quote you have at the beginning of this post, ““I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
    Art Williams

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I used that quote intentionally. I believe it to be true. There are just some darker moments and the post was me sharing that. Taking of the mask and showing some feelings I am not comfortable normally sharing. Your support is deeply appreciated. Sending love and hope to you and your son❤️

  13. It’s lack of trust for the system. Nurses take all of the fault. It’s truly a tough job. This is so relatable 🙌🏾

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