Once upon a time, I wondered if I stayed the same way battered lovers stay in their own war-torn ways. I questioned why I put up with the nonsense. I asked myself why I dealt with the drama. I dug deeply…into those dark, sun-don’t-shine spaces…and searched desperately for answers that only intuition could provide. I am a nurse. And I stay because – despite the bullshit and the battles; the evolving platforms and conforming policies – I want to fucking be here.

I want to be down in the trenches, covered in blood and sweat and scrubs. I want my pink lip gloss to rub off on the surgical mask that sits across my nose while focusing on which drips to change or drugs to push or where to run my next packed cells or platelets or plasma. I want to watch that flat line on a bedside monitor find it’s way back up and down again, with a patient beneath me who happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right goddamn team. I want to help remove the breathing tube of someone whose lungs needed to sit back and relax for a while. I want to quiet the pain of a post-op patient who was sliced open from the neck to the knees, but pushed through the burden and got out of bed anyway. I want to hold the hand of a dying man, and wipe the tears of his beloved bride – the same way I would want that sort of sympathy handed to me should there be a need. I want to bust the balls of residents and roast physicians and poke fun at my fellow nurses – always in jest, never with bad intent – because I hope to provide levity when things are just too heavy. I want my curls to fall and my feet to hurt; my back to ache and my eyes to blur; only if it means I get to say that I gave it everything I had at the end of a thirteen hour day.

I want to emerge from a mess of lines and a tangle of wires, methodically; systematically; technically organizing and scrutinizing and analyzing what goes where and how and when and why. I want to play with the toys. I want to find pieces to the puzzles. I want to stand at the head of a bed where mechanics meet miracles; where science sings supreme but, perhaps, something greater hums a melody. I want to observe the direct impact of a liquid lifeline on a living being. I want to open the conversation when “enough is enough.” I want to provide real compassion without creating false hope. I want to secretly cross my fingers anyway. I want to root for the good ones. I want to see the very best in the bad ones. I want usher an end for those who’ve suffered enough and lead the chariot for those who’ve still got fight left inside. I want to trust the process. I want to go with my gut. I want to push and beg and cajole because I just know something that isn’t quite presenting yet is going to come up. I want to learn through YouTube as much as I grow through experience. I want to teach the next crop the lessons I was given: whether by textbooks or techniques or the School of Hard Knocks.

I stay for the anatomy. I stay for the physiology. I stay for the art and the science and the chemistry. Adrenaline, man – it’s a drug unlike any other. Just when you think you’re coming down from the high…in comes another chance to save a human life. I’m not here because I have to be: I’m here because I want to be. Down in the battlefield – between rounds of code drugs and code browns – learning the difference between living and existing.

I am an ICU nurse. Why do I stay? Because I never want to see you – but if I do – I would want someone who isn’t afraid to get her hands a little dirty caring for you.

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