ER nursing and “saving lives”

I had to work 8 hours today. No biggie. I had a patient that I have had in the past. I don’t actually remember much about her from the past other than her name. It’s hard to forget. After coming in for increased pain in  her legs due to her neuropathy (for one year), she asked me for a meal immediately and then asked me for pain meds. She rudely asked me for a blanket. Then she rudely stood in the hallway to remind me that I forgot her blankets (no, I did not forget, I was just busy with my other patients with legitimate complaints).

It can be really hard to enjoy being a nurse at times. Really hard. Really really hard. You get it? It can be completely thankless. Patients can be rude. They can be demoralizing. They expect you to bend over backwards when they come in for absolutely nothing and are rude to you the entire time. I have been yelled at, cussed at, told that they want any nurse but me (luckily, only my psych patients have told me that)… I had a psych patient tell me I was provoking her. I was barely saying anything. I’ve had patients refuse to leave but they don’t actually want my help.

But I had a patient a few weeks ago who had coded in the field. EMS brought him in with a heart rate in the 30s and a BP that was 60/palp (so he was in bad shape). We paced him on our monitor until the cardiologist was able to put in a temporary pacemaker. We had him on drips and fluids and were doing our best. He was awake, though confused and 100% concerned with when he would get water to drink, and he looked me straight in the eyes while I was trying to get a manual blood pressure on him and he said, “Thank you for saving my life.”

I’ve said how I feel about ever claiming that my job is “saving lives.” I’m a nurse, just like all other nurses. I’ve been a part of many lives saved, but it’s my job. That’s what I do. Just like the teller at the bank hands me my money or the server at a restaurant brings me my food. I’m just doing my job. And even though I feel like 99% of the time my job includes running through a shitstorm and not even coming out of it with anybody having any gratitude for what I just did, it was really nice to hear that man thank me for saving his life.

(By the way, in my eyes, the EMTs who arrived on scene actually saved his life. They brought him back. Myself, along with two other nurses, an ER physician, a nurse practitioner and doctor with the cardiology group, just kept him alive once he was already saved.).

Nursing is really a difficult job. I dislike it half the time and like it half the time. I never love it. I never hate it. But I’m often very grateful that I’m able to fill these shoes and walk into the ER, alive and healthy, and work my shift helping others. After three years of having patients tell me what a wonderful nurse I am or that I’m the best nurse that they’ve ever hard or that I have the heart for this profession (you know, between the patients who yell at me), I’m starting to believe it.