January 29, 2014

And What Is It You Do?

Spoiler Alert:  If you're having a super sunny day and don't want to talk about anything serious, skip this post!!! No worries, we'll see you tomorrow!

The question has come up about what I do for a living.

Yes, I am a nurse.  For nearly 2 decades I was a bedside ICU/trauma nurse...with extra fun experiences along the way teaching nursing school, being a hospital clinical instructor, enjoying a wild ride at the poison center (oh, the stories!), and delving into research.  But for the last 5 years I have been immersed in the ALS world, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.  I work with an absolutely terrific team of people and I adore our patients and their families.  This job is a piece of cake physically...not to mention no on-call, holidays, evenings, nights, or weekends...but emotionally, hands down it's the hardest thing I've ever done.

Facing death every day, year after year, requires a weird mix of being tough as nails and still remaining human enough to well up with tears with people I've grown to love.  It requires inspiring those who still have life to live, and a tender kindness to help prepare for the inevitable goodbyes. All of this emotion must be matched with an extra measure of self-care and rest, and I do that by designating a particular day of the week to stay home and putter.  I love puttering.  I sleep in, stay in my pajamas, read, enjoy a leisurely meal, snuggle with Puppers by the fire, and sometimes resort to a little Cookie Therapy. And then I'm OK! Good to go!


  1. My niece is an end of life nurse/critical care nurse at a large hospital so I have some idea of "what you do". A special and truly important calling.

  2. Hi Nancy, that is a job I think that only rare individuals will do. Most folks do not want to see that or experience that day in and day out, as I am quite sure you know. People so desperately need people to be there at the end of life and during those days, months, sometimes years during the transitioning. I honestly do not know how to do such things as I would not know what to say or how to be there in a way that the person going through the illness and their families would need. Thank goodness there are people like you in this world. I know of a woman who is now beginning a practice to help people who are dying to make that final transition. It's a very special kind of person who can do such things. Though, I do not doubt for one second how difficult it still must be to experience daily. I can't even imagine.

    Blessings, Bird

  3. Hermosas fotos, me encantaron.
    Saludos desde Chile

  4. I retired a little over a year ago. I was a nurse, RN, since 1993. I worked in Newborn Intensive Care, then Labor and delivery, then Pediatrics - over half my time was in a military hospital where my patients were families of active military soldiers. It was both challenging and fulfilling. I now spend time with my husband of 42 year and our two fur babies. My grown children live out of state, but we get to see them and the children as often as we can. I am getting into quilting more and more and enjoying it. crystalbluern at onlineok dot com

  5. nurses are very special people-hugs

  6. I'm a nurse too and worked 25 years in a nursing home. I'm so glad that you take care of yourself that way, so many nurses don't and burn out.



  7. It's good hearing all this since I only know you as "Nancy" ... homespun, liker of baking challenges, kooky and fun humor, loving, sunny, creative, deep thinker, super smart, encouraging ... Nancy. I don't get to see your nurse side. This post puts it a little more in perspective.

  8. I think nurses are the most amazing people. My husband's aunt was a nurse in the NICU and there's just no way I could do that. Kudos on knowing how to take care of yourself. Ain't nothin' wrong with a bit of cookie therapy once in a while!

  9. Hello Nancy
    I think it's great you wrote this post explaining your feelings too.
    I'm sure there is a limit as to how long you could stay in this particular role.
    Tears well up in me with the slightest discomfort for any person or animal.
    You're a very special person and thank you for what you do.
    PS I'm now off to read your GYB party post!

  10. You have an amazing job. I wouldn't have the guts to do what you do... Thanks for sharing!

  11. As a former nurse I know what you are going through. I am surprised you only need one day to recover! I am no longer a practicing nurse as my husband is a physician and there is only so much emotional space in our household. I don't think the public has ANY idea the emotional toil and physical stress healthcare providers go through on a daily basis and I think our own nursing profession has done a terrible job at addressing this issue, let alone preparing nursing students for it. Oh there I go, on my soapbox!...
    On a lighter note, I am really enjoying your blog!

  12. Hear Hear! I was a Pediatric Oncology and Peds ICU/trauma nurse for 32 years. It was a brutal job in the emotional department but my heart was home there. I played raquet ball three nights a week with hubby and swam 3-4 times a week. I also had my own little space for sewing and artsy stuff. It was important to be able to come home after losing a child and beat the heck out of that little ball or swimming until I was exhausted. The constant demand the job extols just doing the daily physical work is immense.
    I agree that the role as a Nurse in any dept. has its emotional, mental, and physical components and unless you are one, it is hard to really see how much we really do, necessary or not.
    I am sure you are a great asset to the ALS team.....you go girl!