“You must never so much think as whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it.”
― Clara Barton
The first nurse I ever remember reading about in school as a child was Clara Barton. Little did I know I would grow up to marry one.
My husband Jim has been a nurse now for almost twenty seven years. When I met him he was a triaxle dump truck driver, making good money hauling slag out of a large Pittsburgh mill. We married, began having children, and then the steel business dried up in our valley. It was as if the bottom fell out of his work.
It didn’t take long for Jim to make a decision. His sister was a nurse and he had been a volunteer EMT for a couple of years and loved it. Though there were very few male nurses at that time, he made a decision to go back to school in his mid- twenties. Jim had never excelled in high school; he went to vocational school and took welding. The hospital based nursing school accepted him but he was on probation for six months until he could prove he could maintain good grades.
I remember many a night at the kitchen table when Jim would want to throw in the towel. Nursing school is hard hard hard. He did the work and graduated as the only male student that year. The hospital featured him and our family in their nursing school informational packet. Our son was about three and our daughter was six when this was all going on. Jim, it turned out, was a non traditional student.
I thought he would start out nice and slow at the local hospital but no. Jim went straight downtown to the intensive care unit at one of the largest Pittsburgh hospitals. (I said, “Are you crazy?”) He wanted to learn and so he figured that was the best place to go. Over the years he’s done psych nursing, cardiology, radiology, and even worked part time in a prison. There are stories he tells that would raise the hair on your arms. Jim is a very good nurse in my opinion, compassionate but also focused and no bones about it honest with people.
What is it like being married to a nurse? Well, you get first hand medical advice when you have something going on. I trust his medical opinion on anything. And, he’s a teacher. When people say something to me about this or that, whatever they have going on, I sometimes say my thoughts based on what Jim has taught me.
For instance, I worked with a young woman who’s niece became very sick. Turned out she had very low iron levels and was then diagnosed with leukemia. We talked about it daily and shared information. My friend wondered what sent her to the hospital. I said, “bad headaches.” She checked with her niece and it turned out I was right.
When my mom was in the hospital (Jim’s hospital I might add), he watched her just about every day. He would bring her cups of coffee, sweetened, to sip on when she was eating just about nothing. I’m sure he monitored her situation constantly and mom knew it. She recovered and I credit Jim with helping us keep our sanity during mom’s long illness.
I have become used to many things over the years as a sacrifice of being married to a nurse who works shifts. Often Jim is not with us for holidays or parties. He currently works three, twelve hour shifts a week so if an event falls on a work day, I go alone or with my family. Only if we get a big head’s up can he try and switch. But that is rare.
I know that Jim has had an impact on his patients over the years. He never talks about his work due to privacy laws, but my church friends will come and tell me how he sat with them, or comforted them while in a procedure or the ER (where Jim currently works). They love him and tell me to thank him for making a difference in their scary situations.
I want to give a shout out to all nurses, who work in stressful situations, under tiring conditions, and devote themselves to the care of sick individuals. May you all be blessed in your work and realize how truly wonderful you really are.