All the recent news coverage over Ebola in the United States has put a spotlight on the actions of healthcare workers, and I can't help but think of all the work we do as a bedside nurse. All of the Ebola attention has put a focus on what we do, since we, as the frontline workers, have been subjected to the virus by caring for people as we do every time we go to work.
Every single day, before Ebola, and now after, we put on our scrubs and go to work not knowing what our day will be like. We don't know what kind of patient will walk through the door. We don't have the luxury of deciding who we do, and do not, want to take care of when we walk onto our unit. As a labor nurse, I would love if I could chose to only labor moms who will have a perfect strip throughout their entire labor, moms who will only delivery vaginally (I hate the OR), and moms who will only deliver babies that will scream and turn pink within seconds and reward me 10/10 apgar scores. Even as I write this, I have to laugh. I can't remember the last time all of those conditions were met. Every patient that I see walk onto our unit, I close my eyes for a split second and pray that if it is her time to deliver, she will deliver in the safest way possible, and she will have a baby that leaves the hospital in her arms. I don't get to decide how my patient will deliver. I don't get to decide if everyone will be perfectly healthy. As a bedside nurse, I have to take care of anyone who presents to me, to the best of my abilities. This is the core of every nurse, regardless of what kind of nurse you are.
I doubt there is any nurse out there that is just dying to take care of a patient infected with anything. But someone has to take care of them, and we will do so to the best of our abilities. We treat everyone as if they may have "something." We wear gloves to start IVs, we wear gloves when handling any sort of body fluid, and if we think we're going to get sprayed in the face with anything, we wear a mask. When we know in advance that our patient is infected with something, we are especially aware and deliberate of our actions. But we're cautious with every patient. I'm not surprised that nurses were subjected to this virus. After all, we were taking care of the patient. And sometimes, regardless of how diligent we are, regardless of how aware we are of the risks and the dangers, we still find ourselves exposed. What everyone else has to remember is that nurses go to work every single day knowing that they can be exposed to many different things. And we still go to work, we still take care of our patients to the best of our ability, because someone has to do it. And we are not always unafraid, and we are very aware, but we still put on scrubs and do it for the love our patients and profession.
I can't tell you how many times I've rolled a mom over because her baby's heart tones were down and felt some sort of fluid seep through my scrubs. I can't tell you how many times a mom has surprised me with 4-to-complete-in-less-than-10-minutes and I've ended up catching the baby by the leg with my bare hands. I can't tell you how many times cord blood has splattered in my face (before I got moves like a ninja) when an excited partner cut the cord quicker than I thought they would. I've started a second IV with only one glove on when someone was hemorrhaging before my eyes. I've taken care of patients on isolation precautions, and the entire time I kept thinking... am I supposed to take off all the PPE stuff here... or here?!?
So for any person out there that has something to say about a nurse getting Ebola, I say this... it could be any patient. It could be any nurse. It could be any day. And it doesn't have to be Ebola. We're all doing the best we can, and as nurses we choose to care for people, knowing that we will never know what our day will be like, or what our patient may bring us.
Until my next delivery ♥
Previously published at Adventures of a Labor Nurse