What it Means to be a Nurse...

I've been a nurse for four and a half years. I have started this post several times but have yet to finish it... so, here we go.
My very first day as a "real" nurse (9-14-2009)
People ask me what it is like to be a nurse... here is my best answer...

-It is a selfless job. Other than being a mother, being a nurse is one of the most selfless jobs I can think of. You are at someone's (or 6 someone's) beck and call for the 13 hours you are there.

-Wait, 13 hours? By the time you get there early (I typically arrive 30 minutes before my shift to look up all of the info on my patients because the minute you clock in, it is all hands on deck), factor in your "30 minute lunch" that you typically take by making several different trips into the break room to heat and reheat your food with a few bites every time, and the time you have to stay to help after you give report because inevitably things hit the fan at shift change, you're lucky if you're only there for 13 hours.

-You have to be good at hiding your "grossed-out face". You clean up poop, pee, vomit, spit, snot, blood, spills... etc. and you're expected not to gag or act like it is any big deal... (thank God for carmex and face masks!)

-You can't be prideful to be a nurse. You get blamed for being 5 minutes late with someone's pain medicine because they watch the clock and know right down to the minute when they can have it. You suck it up and apologize, because they don't realize that you've been consoling a wife down the hall who just found out her husband has terminal cancer, or that you've been called to a code on another unit where a mother just lost her son, or you finally ran into the restroom because you haven't peed in 7 hours. Which brings me to...

-Every patient thinks that THEY are the most important patient. And I do my best to make every patient feel like the most important patient. You can have a hospice patient with a grieving family in one room and next door have a 10 year old with an appendectomy. You have to keep everyone and everything separate. I can cry with the first family and walk into the next room and crack jokes and laugh with the other family. It isn't cruel, it is how we cope.

-You have to separate real life and hospital life. I learned very early in my career that I couldn't take work home with me. I have had a handful of patients over my 6 year nursing career (including nursing school) that I still remember and those patients impacted me strongly, but typically after I leave work, I leave my experience there too, if not, I would be way too overcome with emotion to continue...

-Nursing is a calling. I have done it all. I've taken care of patients who've died on my shift, and I've been in rooms to help birth babies. I've rocked a newborn baby with jaundice so the new parents could get a little sleep and I've bathed ventilator patients whose family is begging God to let them live. I've held the hands of patients as they've found out they've been diagnosed with cancer, I've hugged mommas who've just gone through mastectomies, I've grieved with children as their parents have slipped away with Alzheimers and I have prayed with my hurting patients. I've been hit, kicked, pinched, called names, cussed at... and many many other things... but mostly, I've been told what a difference I have made in someone's life.

-That is why I do it. People every where are hurting; whether from emotional pain, physical pain or spiritual pain. God called me into nursing and He called me into missions. I've struggled with not being able to go to Mexico more often to do mission work, but I am just at a place in my life, with a family and little kids, that I can't do that right now. He has made it clear to me that my mission field is HERE. I used to be overcome with anxiety on my drives to work, and the Lord has cured me of a lot of that, but still, before every single shift, I ask the Lord to place me where people need Him. I try to bring Jesus to this lost world. Some days it is just with a smile, other days it is with hugs and prayers.

I made a bucket list on my blog almost four years ago. I just went back through and checked off a few that I have completed. A few stuck out to me more now than then, like #22. But a major life goal of mine is to make a difference in someone's life every single day, whether that be at work, at the grocery store or maybe even through my blog. I'm not talking about my family, obviously I make a difference in my boy's lives, I am talking about people who have nothing to give me, people I can just bless by being in contact with them by "divine appointment". In the last year, I have lost two people very close to me. One of the big things that was said of each of them is how much they made a difference in other people's lives. That's what I want to be said of me.

So, I am continuing on my journey of choosing joy and of being intentional... those are my thoughts for today and maybe that gives you a little more insight into who I am and who I am striving to be.


  1. I don't think I realized what a tough job a nurse could be. I will forever remember this if I am ever in the hospital. Thank you for all you do and for being there for families who are hurting.

  2. I work in healthcare but I'm not a nurse. I've asked many nurses why they do what they do and no one has ever been able to break it down as good as you have here. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I have the utmost appreciation for nurses. I was born with a cleft palate and pretty much everything in my head is not right. Okay, my brain may be all right but sometimes people wonder. I've had over 40 surgeries, the bulk of which were when I was under 18. And EVERY week I had to go to the hospital without fail to be poked, prodded, looked at, and given shots. I don't tell you this to feel sorry for me (I don't) I tell you this because it's not the doctors I remember. Not a one. I remember the nurses who loved and cared for me. When my daughter was born and had severe hip Hip Dysplasia (honestly, i think it was something more than that bit was over 25 years ago) and had to have traction, surgery, and therapy some of those same nurses were now treating her! It was so comforting for me to know she was in good hands.

    You may get hollered at, poked, pinched, yelled at but when those people go home it's you they remember taking care of them. Doctors are in and out in a flash. All the caring comes from the nurses. You are doing your mission work. Every single day.

  4. Been in the hospital too many times, thankful for good nurses and some I told to leave and not come back. You are to be commended and thanked for your attitude and love of the job.

  5. Very well said. Thank you for the difference that you make.

  6. My mom is currently in rehab for a stroke. Words can't express how blessed we have been by the nurses that have cared for her in the past 6 weeks. Not only have they taken such good care of her but they have loved on us and comforted us. This was beautifully written and I shared it on my Facebook page. God bless you Jenna!!
    Susan In Indiana

  7. I love your blog. I'm new to it, and I came through Kelly's Korner as I followed Janet's story (I'm so very very sorry). I love the way you are real about your grief. My dad died in a plane crash several years ago, and the grief you are going through reminds me.....
    I'm also a nurse. I'm a disaster response nurse with Samaritan's Purse and just got back from a month in the Philippines. And all of the things you said about nursing is very true and accurate.
    It is really the most rewarding job to being a wife and mother.
    Thanks for sharing your journey in your grief. It's beautiful and I love how much you loved her.

  8. I have just read your blog and I agree with you 100%. I have been a nurse for a long time(too long to mention),but just recently sadly my husband died after he nurses who looked after him day & night knew I was a nurse,but that didnt seem to bother them,they were more concerned about his comfort. When I got the grim news,the nurse gave me a hug and said how sorry she was. As nurses we tend to say that a lot,a matter of rote,but she really meant it and therefore my husband sank quietly away with me and his children at his bedside . Which is how it should be. So as an old nurse I still say thank-you and thank God for the nurses that were there for us.

  9. You hit the nail on the head, nursing is such a rewarding profession but is SO challenging each and every day. Like you, I was called to nursing as a teenager and feel that it is in His hands the work that I do each day. Thank you for your post!


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