002. why i do it

I was working as a nurse tech, I was in nursing school, I would take the NCLEX 3 months later, and get married a week and a half after that. Out of passion and frustration, I wrote an essay on March 22, 2017…

Another twelve-hour shift overnight. Seventy-five minutes of driving home, gripping the wheel with white knuckles, eyelids trying to permanently close. Windows open to keep me alert. Every body part aching, but my mind unable to stop. I think about every interaction with each patient, and also about every missed interaction. I am unable to forgive myself for forgetting to bathe the patient in 14, even though it would have been the only thing she needed to go to sleep. I tell myself I am a horrible person for forgetting amidst the other tasks I remembered.

Tonight I was floated to another floor to tech. I begrudgingly climbed the stairs and proceeded to learn the new systems of a new floor. I wish I could say that I didn’t grumble under my breath. But I did the job nonetheless, even if it did take me longer than the floor’s normal techs.

Tonight, I was told by nurses and a tech from that same floor, “Oh, you tech in the ICU, so your job is easy and you just get the fingersticks?” Of course, this belittling comment hurt. I have noticed competition between different units and hospitals. I didn’t feel the need at the time to debate about my job, and I shrugged off the comment.

Now, as I lay here at 9:30 AM, ready to sleep all day, I ask myself why I do this. Why do I put my body through the work of being a nurse tech in the intensive care unit? Why did I stay in nursing school despite almost failing my first semester? Why do I put up with condescending comments that I am ‘just an ICU tech’, or ‘just a student’? Then I realize that I do it for them; I do it for my patients.

I do it for the new mom who was so sick that turning for me to place a bedpan under her, she just looked at me with aching eyes. She didn’t yell, but her face was crumpled in what I understood to be 10/10 pain. The way she bore her pain, grimacing but not crying out. Horror in the furrowing of her eyebrows somehow displayed an intense strength. It was hard to explain…

I do it for her. She was in her 90’s, DNR, went into septic shock during the night I was her sitter. All of her organs were shutting down. Over twelve hours, I watched 90 years of life slip through her body into faded memories of those who loved her…

It’s for the withdrawing patient, experiencing tremors, hallucinations; it’s for his family who didn’t even know he had started to drink again…

I scrub her bed-head hair with a warm shower cap because she couldn’t raise her arms. She looked down at her young body and noticed its fragility. She explained how she used to play sports…

I was hesitant, but handed him a box of tissues. Tears poured down his face as he watched the critical care team fight to keep his wife alive. It was her second time coding tonight, and the blue crash cart was opened with nurses and doctors grabbing epinephrine and other life-saving drugs from it. I looked into his forlorn eyes and offered, “I’m sorry”…

It was for his family. He was our patient for two months. On his one-month anniversary of being our patient, his wife begged us not to tell him he had been here so long. He had threatened to pull out his tracheotomy tube at times. He wasn’t always the kindest patient, but he had a sparkle in his eye. He only enjoyed the old western TV shows. He squeezed my hand day after day thanking me, because he couldn’t say the words out loud. We hugged his wife and his daughter on the day that he was discharged to a nursing home. A few weeks later, we received the phone call that he had passed…

I do it for the patient who forced me to scold my fiancé to promise me he’d wear a helmet when riding his four-wheeler. The patient laid lifeless as we cared for him. He had wires attached to his scalp as a 24-hour ECG was being obtained. He was lifeless, brain-dead, as his family met with his physician to discuss his code status. The cause was a four-wheeler accident…

I do it for the patient on suicide watch. I watched the nurse pray for her, and then tell her that God’s not done with her just yet. It’s not a dry eye in the room as the patient hugs us both…

So what do I do? Yes, I get their fingersticks. I help the nurses with their q four-hour assessments, turn the patients, holding up many more pounds than I weigh so that the nurses may rub their backs and listen to their lungs. I change their sheets. I apply their SCDs on their calves. I give them bed baths each night, not forgetting behind the ears and between the toes. I change their linen bags. I clean up their stool, urine, emesis, and blood from their bodies, bedsheets, pillows, and off of my shoes. I empty their urine bags. I measure their daily weight. I deliver their food trays and unwrap their meals, slowly feeding the ones who cannot feed themselves because they must keep their bodies flat or are too weak. I hook them up to 12-lead-EKGs. I check the amount of urine in their bladder with a scanner. I prioritize which patient and nurse need me first because sometimes I am the only tech on the unit, fighting for 18 patients and their nurses. I run downstairs to the lab and back upstairs to deliver red blood cells that have been carefully checked to ensure the correct type will be administered. I sit with suicidal patients to ensure that they do not harm themselves or others. I fight delirious patients who attempt to pull their breathing tube out of their airway. I bring a blanket from the warmer. I bring some ice with a mouth swab since they are NPO. I run to another floor to find regular pepsi since our unit is all out. I celebrate with the patient whose diet has finally been advanced to clear liquids. I wait patiently while they stool, and then help them clean up because they cannot do so themselves.

Tonight, I’ll climb out of bed for my fifth shift this week, knowing that tomorrow I can sleep in, but that for today, God’s not done with me just yet.

5 thoughts on “002. why i do it”

  1. Wow this is literally so good. You signed up for such a emotional roller coaster when you started your nursing journey. And such an amazing reminder that whether it’s a big or little thing, it’s because GOD has you doing it! So applicable to any life situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jessi,
    Wow! Your writing is amazing; you give an amazing glimpse of how you serve diligently–pouring yourself out, meeting needs, caring, demonstrating thousands of practical kindnesses. I’ve often thought that nurses have very special attitudes and understanding as they treat each patient with such focused care, skill, and compassion. Your “great aunts Katie, Alice, and Sarian” could so relate to this, and your great grandma who is in heaven now would have loved to read this and could relate so well. Keep writing, dear friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. You are so eloquent in sharing your journey. You are a “newer” nurse but an old nursing soul. It is a privilege to work with you.


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