What is a Real Nurse

There’s a long standing issue in Nursing. Are psych nurses ‘real’ nurses. If you need a nurse to start an IV, or place an NG tube, you’re better off with anyone but me. I probably won’t kill you, but you’ll likely wish you were dead by the time I was done with you.

Many nurses look at us as highly paid babysitters. Not very flattering, but I think it’s a bit more complex than that. Psych nursing requires a completely different skill set, and, at times, the courage and bravery of an infantryman charging a machine gun nest.

I had finished my shift. It was about 7:00 PM when the phone rang. It was the VA calling, so I thought they were looking for someone to come in.

“A former patient with a knife walked on to the unit and stabbed five nurses.” my boss said. One nurse was critically injured, and might not survive. One was seriously injured, but was expected to be okay. The other three were injured, but none of their wounds were life threatening.

Those nurses didn’t think twice in the face of danger. They literally put their lives on the line to save the lives of others, and would probably do it all over again if they had to.

Most nurses don’t go to work wondering if this will be the day they die. Even psych nurses don’t contemplate this every day, but there are days, and it’s more than a singular experience. Sometimes the people in our care are not very nice, and more than one career has come to an unexpected end as a result of an assault.

Are psych nurses ‘real’ nurses? No, we are not. We are un-fucking-real nurses. When you are at the bottom of the abyss where nothing can survive, not even hope, we are there to catch you and help you find your way to the surface. When mania expands your mind to encompass the universe, turns your blood to electricity and your thoughts into lightning, we are there to get you back to earth and safety. When dementia has stolen everything from your mind, we will still be there to be the only word of solace, the last touch of comfort.

I’ve had a lots of people, even other nurses, tell me there’s no way they could do what I do. I’ve never had an answer for that, though it just occurred to me that if this isn’t an answer I don’t know what else it could be…

As I pass the torch to the next generation of nurses to follow in my footsteps, I would urge them to remember this. What you do cannot be measured in normal or ordinary terms. You are paranormal, you are metaphysical. You are an artist. You are beyond brave and beautiful.

You. Are. Un-fucking-real.

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