We Work For Every Penny
I met Samantha in the ninth grade. I believe the term we used to describe our friendship then was “batty and bench.” Years later, she was a bridesmaid (and sang) at my wedding. She was also in the room when my first son was born. From the time I’ve known her, she’s always tried to see the best in others. She does what she can to help, even when there’s the risk it won’t end well. I’ve always admired her for that and wasn’t surprised when she pursued a career in nursing.
Q: Did you always want to be a nurse?
SAMANTHA: Nursing was my plan B. I always wanted to become a singer, but I felt the time was moving so quickly and I couldn’t just stay at home to figure it out. Nursing didn’t come easy to me either. Nursing school took so much out of me. The demanding course load didn’t leave me much room to really pursue anything else I really liked.
Then getting into the field was hard. When I started, like anyone else, I didn’t have much experience. It was a year before I got a position. One agency took a chance on me. There was no training and I had to teach myself as I went along. The rest is history. I can definitely say that during this time God reminded me that I am where I am only by his grace. This job is not my source of loge, God is. Period.
Q: What department do you work in?
SAMANTHA: I work in Stroke and Rehab, but we also have patients recovering from hip placements and surgeries of that sort. I would say that I like it. I genuinely like helping people and I’ve met some great minds throughout my seven years as a nurse that has genuinely blown me away with their stories.
Q: Is there one story that really impacted you?
SAMANTHA: I can’t really think of one story that sticks out to me. What does stand out is the lives people lived before becoming the “sick” person. I’ve met presidents from other countries, teachers, lawyers, doctors and other people in high places. I’ve met people who traveled the world, people who were in the war, whose families were refugees, people who went through hell and lived to tell the tale. It’s just unfortunate that we can’t always focus on the person as a whole.
Q: How do you feel about your work?
SAMANTHA: It definitely isn’t respected like it should be. Our work is not all fun and games. I try to put my best effort every day. At times, the workload increases because of factors I can’t control and this adds to the pressure.
Not to mention the trauma of seeing people die all the time. Some people are quick to say, “Nurses get paid a lot,” but believe me, we work for every penny. Some people get paid millions to bounce a ball, meanwhile, our job is to try and save your Grandma. I personally know nurses who are taking care of other people’s relatives full-time while their own might be sick or dying. They can’t just leave their jobs.
Q: I’ve had some really good nurses but I’ve also had two very difficult experiences. The way they treated me was extremely callous until things turned into an emergency. What’s your perspective on situations like these?
SAMANTHA: I don’t believe rude and disengaged nurses start out that way. It’s all the crap that they have to go through on an almost daily basis that has absolutely nothing to do with you. I had to check myself when I started to feel resentful about my work. It was this same job that I’d asked God for and at one time had been so thankful for.
During that time, I learned that perspective is such an important thing to have. If you don’t have perspective, any and everything will bother you. Imagine, one of your patients rudely tells you to go wash their laundry, even though that’s not a part of your job description. I decided to think of the position he’s in. His wife recently died, he’s alone at the hospital, and his two children live on the other side of the country and he’s dying. Does that make how he spoke to you right? Definitely not and it shouldn’t be excused but perspective helps.
Q: Have any of your patients ever died?
SAMANTHA: Yes, they have. A philosopher by the name of 50 Cent once said, “Death gotta be easy ‘cause life is hard.” He lied.
When you expect it, you can prepare yourself a bit more. Two of my patients died within minutes of each other once. One just came back from lunch. No one saw it coming. I’ve seen patients die alone. I’ve seen families who don’t care. I’ve also watched families watch their loved ones slip away in front of their eyes.
Q: Have you ever had to handle a dead body? What do you do?
SAMANTHA: The first time I saw a dead body, it traumatized me for months. As a nurse, you have to become accustomed to death; it’s the job.
When a person dies in a hospital, you clean them up, tie their hands together, tie their legs together and tie a bow around their head so that the jaw doesn’t open. You put an identification tag on their toe and place them in a body bag.
It can feel so dehumanizing. It’s an incredible reminder that no matter how great you are or how high you climb, at the end of your life, you’ll end up in a body bag with a tag on your toe.
It teaches you to be more aware of your time, truly live your life, and spend it with the people you love.
Unlike Samantha, I do not personally see death often but it doesn’t escape me either. I hear about it at least twice a day from the news and the stories of others.
I’ve also experienced the emotional aftermath that comes with the death of family members and friends. Whether death visits often or not, it is all around us and it’s foolish to ignore it. Samantha’s words reminded me that the playing field is leveled in sickness and death.
While we live in this world, we should use our time and energy to work and live well from a perspective that acknowledges our mortality (Eccl. 9:10). We should also remember that for the children of God, death is not the end for us; the body bags and toe tags don’t win (Rom. 8:23).