If you didn’t have a chance to tune in to our show with Julianna Paradisi on RN.FM Radio, then I suggest you make this a priority. Of course you might want to head over to Julianna’s latest project, The Adventures Of Nurse Niki so that you can have some frame of reference for the show and this post. Spoiler alert: It’s a damn fine read. I’m admitting to the community here that following this story is a guilty pleasure of mine.
I suppose I’m tapping into my inner soap opera or daytime drama weakness. The story really does read like a script and I can envision all of the characters as if I’m tuning in to one of the most compelling daytime dramas on television today.
Every so often on the show we talk about how nurses are portrayed in the world of pop culture. We often see nurses held back in the shadows of a really dynamic physician character who always seems to swoop in to save a patient’s life at just the right moment. News flash for those of you who haven’t yet experienced this on your unit, I do know a few docs who have offered to wipe a butt or two because a patient had been rolled on their side for a procedure with this area exposed to the doc. You know who you are, and we of course thank you for your support to treat the “whole” patient.
Julianna has embarked on something special for the nursing community. The Adventures Of Nurse Niki is one of the most intelligent perspectives of life as a nurse. These are the experiences of a “real nurse” if you ask me. Nurse Niki is a smart and dynamic character who works night shift in the PICU at a California hospital. A good television show or fiction novel could certainly draw out the sexiness of working in the ICU, but with Niki’s story we quickly discover that this dynamic character is also struggling to cope with life at the bedside, and as a mother and wife. Hidden within each chapter the discovery is that Nurse Niki is in fact you. She’s me. Well that is of course if I was a woman.
Niki’s struggles are really no different than yours. She’s trying to find work-life balance and has the same inner turbulence that never seems to allow for the seat belt sign to be turned off. Niki’s hope was to work for awhile as a nurse and then be able to stay home with her daughter when she was born. She so desperately wants to feel that same connection with her husband that she had with him in college, but how can she possibly put her day in perspective for someone who isn’t exposed to the same emotional trauma that a nurse endures day in and day out? Sound familiar?
Our well laid out plans rarely seem to work out in the way we picture them, and so far it certainly hasn’t for Niki as she deals with the conflict of the same characters we all try to play each day in our own lives. What we believe work-life balance should be is really what I like to call controlled chaos. With a house full of boys around here we often find ourselves having to put up barricades and call in the crowd control teams to herd what seems like a bunch of cats out the door for their next soccer practice or school performance.
Just like many of us either currently or in the past, it’s never just a 12-hour shift and only 3 days a week. Nursing is not a part-time job by any stretch. When you work in high acuity setting like these it seems as if you never leave, even with a couple of days off in between your shifts. It’s really a constant you can depend on. Your co-workers become your family. The frightening difference is that they are the ones who understand you the best, and so the plot thickens.
For a fleeting moment when we’re at the hospital we do think about being at home with our loved ones, but it’s quickly drowned out by the bells and alarms from the machines we use to help quiet our patients’ cries of pain hoping that this next injection can provide them with the calm they so desperately need. I suppose we numb ourselves emotionally so that we can find our own calm in the chaos.
Reading a good book in bed, playing catch with our kids, girls’/guys’ night out, and physical or emotional intimacy with our partner starts becoming a chore. These personal acts all start to feel like an obligation or a must in a life already filled with those professional demands. There’s some kind of ailing comfort in knowing that those you work with also walk in very similar shoes, and at this point you begin to realize the disconnect becomes more pronounced with life at home.
It’s really difficult to take your eyes off of it. The train wreck, the car accident, the couple arguing over there in the corner. Are you seeing your own life through this lens? Pretty scary isn’t it? But, I’m a sucker for a good daytime drama, and until we get to see her on the television screen I’ll continue to feed my guilty pleasure by consuming each new chapter as it unfolds.
I’m on the edge of my seat waiting not so patiently for chapter 16 to be released. Julianna assures me it will be released tomorrow (Thursday), so until then please hold all of my calls.