As health care workers, we witness tragedy, illness and death on a daily basis. We learn to cope with it, block it out, shake it off and “Just keep swimming” as Dory the fish would say. Each day as we walk out of the hospital at the end of our shifts, we step into that imaginary phone booth to twist around and shed our super life saver cloths. No one will ever know what we’ve experienced during our work day if we don’t want them to.
In the hospital I work in as a nurse, we refer to each other as family. There’s the hospital wide family and there’s the unit where you work family. Regardless of a person’s job description, we have one common goal: to save lives. We celebrate holidays together. We pass each other in the halls, we chat about our lives, and we share joy and sorrow.
Unfortunately, I’ve experienced illness and death on multiple occasions among my coworkers in my 22 years as a nurse. It doesn’t get any easier as the years pass, as we get older, knowing what we know about life and death.
Monday morning, my unit family learned that an employee in a unit that we work in conjunction with every day had a medical emergency over the weekend. Although they were still alive, the outlook did not look good. The hospital family held a prayer service. This employee’s unit family held a prayer breakfast. A Go Fund Me account was set up.
Early yesterday morning we learned that this member of our hospital family was placed in hospice. After learning this, I took some time to reflect and pray for this person. I didn’t know this person as well as I know others but she always smiled and nodded at me in passing. I thought about her in her street cloths and not her super life saver uniform, as the human being that she is outside of the hospital, how full of life she was prior to this illness and how sad her family must be.
As I went along with my day yesterday I had that familiar feeling in my gut that I often do when something is wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I was sad. I’d gone out for a random lunch with a friend, ran errands, cleaned up my house and took a nap. It was a good day. Then I figured it out. I’d just kept swimming after learning about my coworker in hospice. I thought I could just reflect, say a prayer and shake it off because that’s how we are programmed so we don’t go crazy. Not this time. I didn’t have my super life saving uniform on. It made me feel vulnerable. I realized that I would never see this coworker again and it hurt.
I woke up this morning and knew that I had to write this post for my coworker, for anyone who’s ever lost a coworker, and for the non medical world to understand how much it hits home when we lose one of our own. Later this afternoon I learned that God has taken my coworker home. May she rest in peace.