I hope that this finds you healthy and happy. It’s always fun to catch up with a good, old-fashioned letter! Here’s a bit of an update on what’s going on in my world these days.
I am SO excited about a new position that I have accepted – I am going to be a school nurse! After decades spent in the trenches of scrubbing and circulating in the operating room followed by a brief stint in the world of caring for the chronically mentally ill, I am blessed with an opportunity to have what is known in the trade as a “legacy” job. This is the final stage of my nursing career. As the brilliant poet, Maya Angelou, said, “If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.”
As the employment process progressed, I spent time re-visiting what gave me the impetus to make it to this stage in my career. What made me want to pull myself out of a forced retirement and jump back into the world of caring for patients?
First of all, let me just say, I love being a nurse. Working in the OR for decades has provided me with many opportunities to see people on the worst day in their lives. Unfortunately, the bad days often do stick with us – unlike the medical TV shows with their tidy resolutions, real life situations can impact not only the patients, but also the team providing care. Few among us can forget the sound of a parent wailing upon hearing that their child has died. Or, the sense of terror when waiting for a distressed newborn baby to cry. Or, the blinding fear when you realize that your patient intends to harm you. These scars may last forever. Don’t get me wrong, there has been magic, too. Not the unicorn farts and fairy sprinkles sort, but the sight of a faint rainbow of hope that glimmers at the end of a tough day. Simply knowing that I had been even a tiny part of helping someone through tough times is the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.
A few weeks ago, I accepted a school nurse position in a nearby district. Cautiously, I did my research on the culture of the administration and schools. I liked what I saw and heard. The district foundation is one of support and empowerment for students, teachers and staff. Early on, I was informed that looking for new and better ways of approaching challenges is not only encouraged, but it is an expectation. That phrase that so many of us have heard and come to hate in our careers, ‘well, that’s the way that we have always done it’, is not acceptable in this environment. How refreshing!
In preparation for this new adventure, I started doing my school shopping. New outfits and shoes were obviously on the list. No more scrubs for me!! I get to wear real clothes! I even bought a few pens, notebooks, and a brand- new lunch bag. Daydreams of being invited to do story hour for the kindergarteners flitted through my noggin. It would be wonderful to spend time as a nurse making a positive impression on the littles. This is such fertile ground for encouraging health and body positivity. I am humbled by the notion that I can make a difference in promoting a lifetime of health and wellness while helping to maintain a safe, stable environment for learning.
As the weeks have passed, I realize that the reality of the world has shifted and my daydreams are just that – dreams. Daily, the numbers of COVID-19 infections rise in my little state. The death count is rising, too. Our small critical access hospitals are rapidly becoming overwhelmed and struggling to find facilities that will accept patients requiring more complex levels of care.
Weekly, local school boards are meeting to try to decide how to proceed to accomplish the goal of in-person learning. I have watched and listened to some of these meetings. There is a flood of anger and fear that literally takes my breath away. Community members are verbally aggressive with one another and the school officials regarding the use of mitigation methods to prevent transmission of the virus. It seems to all boil down to what people perceive to be their individual rights and how these rights are impacted by any safety measures.
I know that this is a windy narrative so I will wrap it up. My daydreams have been put on a lower shelf for a bit; I am NOT letting go of the story time idea, though. School shopping has shifted and, alas, I will be back in scrubs. You see, scrubs are ideal for wearing under layers of PPE. The reality is, I will need to maintain my own safety while providing care during the continuing pandemic.
I know, so much for the sweet legacy fantasy, right? I can already hear you grumbling about me doing my customary jump from the frying pan into the fire. You may be right, I hope not.
I do know that I will work each minute of every day to keep all of the students, teachers, and staff safe and healthy. I will use knowledge, understanding, flexibility, and a host of nursing skills. I will also do it with compassion and kindness while advocating for the rights of those who don’t have a voice at those fractious meetings. Why? So that part of my legacy will be that of working tirelessly to keep a very small part of this otherwise crazy world safe, secure, and engaging for a few hours each day. Respectfully, my sincere hope is that you will join me in this effort.
- opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author