Hi, my name is Paula and I am just your average twenty-something-just-a-nurse. But to be honest, I pity you. You may wonder why I, an average twenty-something-just-a-nurse, feels badly for you, a television star who reaches millions of people who watch The View each day, but I do. One time, two times, four times, many times, I have seen joy, death, pain, happiness, hope, fear and love move swiftly across the faces of many people. I have given a newborn a bath and have solemnly prepared a person to be seen by their family for the last time. I have drawn blood at 5:00am, I have given CPR and have made glove balloons and handed out ice and apple juice with a smile on my face. I have met people I would never have met, had I not been “just” their nurse. And the fact that you will never know these joys makes me sad for you.
My patients have caused me great difficulty but have also brought me dinner, called me beautiful, asked if I was pregnant or what grade I was in. My patients have wondered about my life, have asked about what books I’ve read lately, have wondered what it is that makes me smile when I’m not in the hospital. They have given me fleeting friendships that allow for the deepest kind of service to mankind, compassion. I may be just your average twenty-something-just-a-nurse, but I have seen more of what life, death, and the course of disease can to do a family, a friend, or a person than anyone could ever bear to see in a lifetime. And the fact that you will never know the hope that such struggles bring makes me sad for you.
Fast-forward an one year later, I am in the unique position of being a Bachelors-prepared Registered Nurse who is also a medical student. I can tell you that in this moment, as I sit here before I begin my studies for the evening, I look back on my time as a nurse and regret none of it. I will always be proud that the first two letters after my name were “R” and “N” because the magnitude of the burden that they carry has taught me one thing: in order to save lives, you must love life.
That is why I am not angry with you; callous words and ignorant thoughts could never diminish or degrade the integrity, passion, honor and commitment that accompanied my position as a staff nurse at a small hospital in New Jersey. It will take away from the lessons I’ve learned, the late nights drinking a cold chai latte with fellow coworkers, the hours I spent laughing with patients, the hours I’ve spent crying with them, and that one time, I saved a life.
You will grow old. You will get sick. That’s a fact of life. And when that happens, please, come right in. My name is Paula. I’m a nurse. I’ll take care of you.