April: "I'm a Registered Nurse."
Boy (I say boy because I haven't really met an actual man in a long time): visible interest in April perks up. Invariably there is a chauvinistic question about the uniform (either picturing a stripper-esque teensy white dress with thigh-high stockings or believes what's under the scrubs is a fabulous pandora's box of sexuality) or makes a remark about "always wanting to find a sugar mamma." There's probably some cheesy remark about nurses being angels thrown in for good measure. Dismay quickly sets in when he realizes I wear the equivalent of baggy pyjamas to work and while I may appear angelic, the trucker mouth and unique nursing sense of humour is a perfect addition to the fact that my scrubs are likely covered in any number of bodily fluids that no one wants to know about.
All kidding and stereotypes aside, yesterday marked the culmination of National Nurses Week (and due to technical difficulties I had to delay posting this). I haven't blatantly advertised my profession here on the blog, and I'm not one to waltz around on a high horse making sure everyone knows what I do for a living. But, this profession that I stumbled upon and have come to love fiercely, changed my life so drastically; my nursing colleagues are such brave, ridiculously hilarious, and amazing humans - I had to say a little something about nursing, at least from my perspective.
I truly lucked into nursing. I was nearing the end of a physiology degree with the intent of heading into medicine and becoming a doctor, and I was at a crossroads. I wrote the MCAT, and ended up one point short on the physics section (my arch-nemesis, fucking physics). My choices were...take the one class I had left remaining as a prerequisite for my physiology degree and fill up the remainder of a full load with classes that would lend to upping my overall average (and thus make me look somewhat intelligent), or find something that could lead to an actual job. Enter a serendipitous admission to the second degree nursing program at the University of Sask. I started nursing in May of 2006, and completed it in May of 2008 - an insanely gruelling two years that ground out an entirely different person than the one who shyly entered the lecture theatre at the start.
My convocation from nursing came along with some of the most life-altering circumstances I've experienced. The first time I left Canada was at the ripe old age of twenty-five, when I trekked across the globe to spend six weeks nursing in a rural area of Mozambique, accompanied by five other amazing women (one of whom has become one of my closest and dearest people, and my non-lesbian life partner/ex-roommate). I arrived home from three months of travel in Southern Africa a freshly single and far more adventurous version of myself (one day I'll share that break-up story with you...it was, interesting), and started a full-time job in the real world on one of the more emotionally challenging wards a nurse could choose - oncology.
I have worked for a total of eight years as a nurse - six on oncology, and the last two in intensive care. My experience is by no means exhaustive, and I definitely have not "seen everything." I have definitely seen some things...I've cared for someone bleeding to death in a most unfortunate way. I've held dying hands and shed tears quietly in the bathroom afterward. I watch time and time again as families and friends cross the emotional chasm of "do everything," to "it's time to let them go." I have had some of the most difficult conversations a person will ever have in their life, requiring brutal honesty in order to bring someone into the reality of their situation instead of clinging to one last shred of hope. When you break it down to the absolute bear bones of reality, us nurses see and do some pretty ridiculous shit.
Craziness aside, I am in love with this job. I may not always like it (say, when you turn a patient and have to dodge actual projectile shit with Matrix-like precision), but I am in love with it. And the good - oh the good of this job - far outweighs any of the bad experiences. I've been so very lucky to derive so much good from this job. From working with some of the most courageous, miraculous and strong people who fight tooth and nail for their lives - to equally amazing humans who accept death's inevitability and the heart-wrenching fact that for some it comes all too early. Nursing has given me some of my closest and most important friends, and it has given me courage. It has given me a unique perspective on life, and allowed me to work through difficult situations in my own life with a keen understanding of where my priorities need to lie (and large quantities of wine).
Nursing is not a profession for the faint of heart, and thank goodness for that. There is no group of people I would want alongside me other than those I am deeply fortunate to call my friends and coworkers. These men and women are so much more than angels - they are intelligent, disgustingly hilarious (and I mean rankly, awfully, grossly humorous), big-hearted, caring, and empathetic individuals; I am honoured to work with them. It is such a privilege to be a nurse - we witness the amazing capacity of human beings daily, and have the honour of working with and helping people through some of their worst days. How blessed we are.