Being a nurse is a hard job. It’s obvious from all of my other posts I feel this way but there’s only one job that is as close to as challenging (other than EMS, Police, military etc. but I think this is applicable to them as well). That job is being in a relationship with one of us. It’s got to be really difficult to be the significant other of a nurse. Nurturing your nurse is a full-time job. Nurse-nurse couples, nurse-police officer couples, you all are crazy. That’s a lot of “stuff” to deal with. These couples, however, may have it a bit easier in a way in that they “get it” more than a person whose day is more cubical than craniotomy. If you are one-half of a nurse couple that is confused on how to deal with us, here’s a little how to guide for you to survive.
Speaking from personal experience, my husband works a “normal” 9-5 job. Cube, emails, meetings. Think The Office vs. ER. If a stapler in jello is the worst thing I have to deal with, bring it on. He and I have had a lot of learning to do together in the past few years. We’ve learned to deal but luckily you don’t have to. I’ve compiled a little list for you to print out and casually leave on the counter or tag your partner in. You’re welcome. If only I had thought of this sooner I might have saved more than a few fights with my man.
Try to be sympathetic and supportive of our schedule: There is nothing more obnoxious to a nurse than to hear “it must be awesome to only work three days a week”. I’m mentally throat punching you when you say this. Our schedule causes us to be away from families for major holidays, to risk our own well-being to get into work during snow/hurricanes/tornadoes/major disasters. Not to mention that a 12-hour shift is rarely 12 hours and pretty much never allows for a two-minute pee break or a five minute food-inhalation period. Please for the love of God try to understand that the two days off after a four PM shift streak is merely recovery. Mental and physical. We are caring more than physical weight when we are caring for that 300 lb liver patient who keeps trying to die. Chores can wait. Please try to understand. We need you to not only get it but to be in our corner when your family or our family or friends don’t get it. Stand up for us when people make jokes about how we can never come to Johnny’s birthday party or Aunt Sarah’s Fourth of July picnic. Or Christmas. Please explain that we want to (even if we are a little happy we get to skip your great uncle’s bunion surgery story at Thanksgiving dinner), we just need the date in writing a year in advance and not on a major holiday. Not too much to ask right?
Make decisions for us: We make a lot of choices in a 12-hour shift. A mind-numbingly long list of choices. Many of them life or death. If you want to understand what it’s like read this.
We are mentally replaying our decisions, our follow throughs, our hits, and our misses because they matter.
That subtle change we noticed in Mrs. so-and-so’s speech last night, we reported it and though it wasn’t anything then, was it the start of our little grandma’s stroke? How was that 23-weeker we admitted doing without us? How are her mom and dad this morning? How did that newly diagnosed cancer patient do with her port placement? Should we have said more about it? Or less? We are thinking about this when our bodies physically leave the premises. They can’t come with us all the time. So we need some time. Our brains hurt. We need you to choose what to make for dinner. We will even help, just don’t make us figure it out. You can choose reservations. Everyone likes pizza. Instead of trying to drag us out after a shift, burnt and ready for a two-day nap, schedule a Tuesday off and do something fun with no crowds. Matinee movies and lunch or a trip to the zoo or aquarium or theme park supports our schedule and works for an alternate date night you planned (and is usually cheaper). Awesome all around.
Encourage activity: Nursing is a career that chooses you. You live it and breathe it if you are in it for the right reasons. Which I know most of us are. We need a break though. We need to be active. To run out the stress or yoga the hell out of it. Exercise helps. Encourage it. Outdoors if possible. Especially if you’re one of the lucky ladies or gentleman stuck with a night shifter. Though their skin may sizzle when it sees the light of day, Vitamin D helps. Being nocturnal isn’t good for anyone so on a day off when they aren’t sleeping- encourage them to take a walk. Come with. It’s healthy. It’s stress relieving. It’s couple time. Points for all three.
Foster hobbies: Blogging is mine. I have another friend who lifts weights. Someone I know is really into martial arts. Shopping counts, I have many friends who like that. That and drinking wine. That’s why they’re my friends. All kidding aside, it’s important to have an outlet. A purpose outside of the career that takes so much and gives so little. Whatever it is, encourage it. Support it. Without this little corner of the internet, I might have left nursing a while ago. It allows me to refocus and connect with people outside of the hospital circle.
Give space: HUGE help. Ask us if we come home sad/upset/pissed. Understand that our mood or attitude may have something to do with work.
If we say it’s a work thing, please don’t pry. Try to read us and if it seems like we are still working through it, give us some time. A shower may be all we need.
We deal with a lot and sometimes we need to process it before we can even explain. It’s not that we don’t want to talk about it. We probably need to. Sometimes just sleeping on it helps. I’ve had times I just need to forget about it and focus on anything else. Speaking honestly about my experience, it will be a test of your relationship those first few times, the dance of you wanting to be able to fix things for us or at least console us when sometimes the things we are processing are things you can’t fix. Be our shoulder. That’s enough.
Allow us to talk about it: When it’s time, we may come to you and want to explain. If your partner is anything like me they may want to vent. Loudly. With diagrams. Let them. They may talk about things that you couldn’t spell or even pronounce but remember when you talk about TPS reports our eyes glaze over too. Please try to look interested/appalled/shocked when we prompt you. Plus after a few thousand of these you might even learn about chest tube air leaks and the proper discharge protocols. My husband knows what CVVH is. I’m a proud wifey.
The bottom line is, being the partner of a nurse is no small job. We are caregivers and we give a lot of ourselves, to our patients and probably to you. Sometimes we’re spent and we need a little time and help to get back to the person you love. We want to care for you too, so remember these rules so that when you’re old and crusty, you’ll have the most loving personal nurse to who might actually want to clean your crevices. You’re welcome.