To Our Angels Dressed Up in Scrubs

This is for all you Angels dressed up in scrubs out there. The ones I know and the ones I don’t. The ones who combine knowledge and compassion every day. I don’t care if it’s not National Nurses Week or Happy Doctor’s Day. You deserve a dang hug. A big shout out to my three sisters, who are either in nursing school and working as a nurse tech {Madison}, just graduated nursing school and passed her boards {Mackenzy}, or has seven years experience as a nurse {Becky}. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, and for being a model of mercy each and every day.  A humble thank you to the three nurses who cared for us during our hospital stay after our daughter Aliza passed away. Esmeralda, Amanda, and Debbie: You most definitely are my angels dressed up in scrubs. And to my OB-GYN Dr. McInerney: You have seen way too much. But thank you anyways. From the bottom of my heart and the depths of everything else you have examined.

This is for all you Angels dressed up in scrubs out there. The ones I know and the ones I don’t. The ones who combine knowledge and compassion every day. I don’t care if it’s not National Nurses Week or Happy Doctor’s Day. You deserve a dang hug.

A big shout out to my three sisters, who are either in nursing school and working as a nurse tech {Madison}, just graduated nursing school and passed her boards {Mackenzy}, or has seven years experience as a nurse {Becky}. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, and for being a model of mercy each and every day. 

A humble thank you to the three nurses who cared for us during our hospital stay after our daughter Aliza passed away. Esmeralda, Amanda, and Debbie: You most definitely are my angels dressed up in scrubs.

And to my OB-GYN Dr. McInerney: You have seen way too much. But thank you anyways. From the bottom of my heart and the depths of everything else you have examined.

My first thought when I learn you are a doctor or a nurse is always: How do you do it?

One time I watched my sister give birth and nearly passed out. Another time my first grader handed me a bloody tooth she just lost and it nearly set off my gag reflex. And another time I smelled my own kid’s throw-up and almost ran out of the room, sat down in the corner, and started singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

I have always appreciated you. But I didn’t realize until my own time spent as a patient in and out of doctors’ offices and hospitals that actually, I love you.

All throughout our pregnancy and when we went to the hospital to deliver our daughter who had passed away, I thought of you as our “angels dressed up in scrubs.”

My love started with you, Doctor Grey and Doctor McDreamy.

It's nothing like Grey's Anatomy or House or any other medical show. – Madison  

But I always wonder: Does the burden of your responsibility get tiring? Every day, a different patient asking you to tell them what’s wrong, pleading with you to fix what’s wrong? Praying you’ll tell them everything’s going to be all right?

But what a gift of knowledge you carry with you. And what a gift to see those of you who combine your knowledge with an even deeper compassion.

Not all doctors do. Power their brain with their heart, that is. I remember sitting across from one in particular and feeling like just another file on their caseload. But wow, there are still so many who do. There were still so many who were professional towards us and kept us informed. Who made us feel human. Who showed us that honesty and kindness are not mutually exclusive events.

I practiced Obstetrics and Gynecology for about forty years. My wife and I have five living children. I was present for the births of several children who were born still or who died sometime after birth. I cannot imagine how difficult that must be for a parent. When I returned home after caring for a woman who lost her child, I would often sit at the bed or crib of our youngest, and pray to God for the family, and wonder if I would have the spiritual strength of the woman I just left. – Dr. Paul McCauley, M.D.

Words can be hard to find in sad situations. Like when you have to tell a family that their hearts will go forward, but only with a giant, gaping hole in it. But my doctor wasn’t afraid to say over and over how sorry he was for our loss. He wasn’t afraid to remind me that the loss of our daughter wasn’t my fault. He wasn’t afraid to call me at home to see if we were okay. He wasn’t afraid to give me a hug.

Several years ago I helped organize a memorial service for people who had lost children through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. It amazed and disappointed me how few physicians and nurses would attend the service. I would like to believe they cared, and just did not know what to say. We male physicians do better when we can "fix" things. You, as you now well know, cannot be "fixed". We have to learn to sit on our hands, keep our mouths shut, and just walk along side you, as you pass through this terrible part of your life journey. We are doing better. Reading words such as yours helps us also. Thank you for sharing. – Dr. Paul McCauley, M.D.

Life and death are not in your hands, dear Doctors. And I know you aren’t perfect. But I also know that God’s blessings of technology and science and medicine are an amazing tool that is able to tell us a lot about life and death and sickness and health. And I praise God for the blessing that you are and the work that you do to protect, prolong, and better life for so many.

But did you think I forgot about you, dear Nurses? Did I not yet tell you that my heart almost burst with love when you cared for me at my bedside?

You beautiful people who are always there when the doctor can’t be. Who are at the bedside of so many during some of the worst, most vulnerable, most painful times in your patients' lives. {And also some of the best, most exhilarating times when life is saved. When life is born.}

I remember writhing in agony from the constant contractions that had me curled up on my side. I remember telling the nurse I wanted to get an epidural. I remember adding an asterisk and saying, “But I also have really bad diarrhea right now.” Her smile changed just a little bit: “Oh, well…I’ve never had that happen before! But we will make do!” Her smile never left her face completely.

Since I work on the surgical ICU, I see patients at the brink of death and families at their worst times in life. I love that with the care I provide I can help bring those patients back to their original state of health and help bring families out of their grief.  I love when simple things I do like bathing a patient can bring the biggest smile to their face. It's the little things like that which makes all the stress worth it. – Becky

And I remember after our daughter was delivered stillborn and the catheter was removed, that I urinated 1.5 liters into a bedpan. And I remember the nurse laughing with me about the fact that “holy smokes that is so much pee!”

"Be kind to your nurse. They choose your IV and catheter size". Just kidding. Nurses are some of the most compassionate, hard working, dedicated, and trusting people I know. They truly want what is best for their patients, and advocate for your care to the physicians. A good bedside nurse will make or break your quality of care in the hospital setting, regardless of who your physician is. – Mackenzy

But nurses, something tells me that you love your job, not just because you get to do lots of gross stuff. {Although, I have seen how excited some of you get around veins and needles.} The hospital can be so uncomfortable. But the nurses who came to our bedside came to us like friends. They shared their own stories of loss. Some who lost their own babies too. They understood our pain, so they were able to comfort us in our emotional pain as well.

I love helping people. I love the nasty stuff that I know a lot of people can't handle without the thought of throwing up. I love patients that are appreciative for the sweat on my brow. I love the diversity of the people I get to meet. – Madison

Our nurses laughed with me. They teared up with me when I broke down in sobs. The fact that they not only cared for and cleaned me up through the grossness, but that they also made me feel comfortable through the ugliness of my emotional pain, was such a gift. They even sent me a card in the mail weeks after we were discharged from the hospital.

I wish my patients and their families knew about all the struggle we go through. As nurses, we try to stay positive for them, but inside we are struggling sometimes just as much as they are. I wish they knew that I want just as badly for their loved one to get better. I wish they knew that though I get to leave at the end of my shift, I don't get to leave my emotions behind as well. I wish they knew I cry for them on my car ride home. I wish they knew I will do everything I can to save their life, though it may mean I don't get to eat lunch or I have to miss seeing my kids before bed. I wish they knew that when they see us sitting around and laughing while their loved one is dying in the next room, that we aren't being cruel or disrespectful. That we need that moment to laugh and sit so we don't bottle up those emotions. We grieve as well, though it may not be the same as theirs or as deep. But we still struggle with it. – Becky

When we made decisions in regards to our baby and our care, we didn't feel judged by the nurses. They reminded us over and over that we needed to make decisions that were best for us: best for our circumstances and emotional needs. And what a blessing that was.

I love the variety of people I get to take care of and learn from. I love that I get to converse and help people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and stages of life. After growing up in {a small town} bubble, it's very eye opening. – Mackenzy

Nurses, it’s hard. I know some don’t realize it. But your job is hard.

The hardest part is seeing people in the direst of situations and knowing I will get fired if I voice my faith. Even though that's the only thing that would get me through in times like theirs. – Madison

The hardest part about being a nurse is feeling like I haven't done enough for my patients. Often times I wonder if what I have done even makes a difference in their lives, especially when they make such a difference in mine. – Mackenzy

The hardest part of being a nurse is the demand it takes on me. Nursing is physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Physically, I work 12+ hour days, many times with no break. I'm lucky if I have time to pee. Emotionally, seeing people die on a daily basis never gets easier no matter how often you see it. As a nurse I need to find a balance between distancing those emotions, yet still creating a relationship with patients and their families. Sometimes that means crying in the staff break room for a few minutes to get those built up emotions out. And spiritually, sometimes I find myself questioning "Why?" Seeing 20-30 year olds die and wondering why their life had to be cut short. Just last week, we had a patient who was estranged from his family. His brother called and told us to remove life support. The patient died all alone. The questions of “Why does this have to happen? Why does this world have to be so broken?” are constantly going through my mind.  There is also a demand in my family. I miss out on a lot by working long days, weekends and holidays. But unfortunately people aren't just sick Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. – Becky

To all our Angels dressed up in scrubs, I pray you will know that you are appreciated.

That the sweat and tears and strength you put into each day of work is a gift to your patients. Sometimes it is taken for granted. But today, please know that you are cherished.

So keep smiling. Keep shining.

Keep cracking jokes with your patients. Keep breaking your back and sweating those shifts and crying those tears. Keep rubbing others’ backs and offering those hugs. Keep wiping those bottoms. Keep sticking those IV’s. Keep passing those meds, taking those temps, and recording those charts.

Keep refraining from those angry words that you would have every right to say to your ungrateful patient if your hospital had no code of conduct policies. Keep doing all the millions of other things that you do during those shifts that are way too long.

And keep demonstrating your loving compassion with all your heart.

Being a nurse is one of the most rewarding jobs I think there is. I save people's lives everyday, but it's more than that. It's seeing families come together in their joys and sorrows. To see the smiles on their faces when we tell them their loved one is going to live is amazing! And the opposite too, to help families and patients through death, though difficult to do, can have a rewarding feeling knowing that I can help ease that process.  All the stress and drama and emotions and hard labor is all worth it at the end of the day just to know that you have changed someone's life, sometimes in ways I don't even realize. – Becky

To all the Angels dressed up in scrubs. To the doctors and the nurses and the techs and everyone else in the line of work called “Caring for People’s Wellbeing”: Thank you.

I will always wonder how you do it. But thank you.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra