When I was in fifth grade, my best friend’s mom was a registered nurse. I loved going to their house because her mother always had cool stories to tell about the patients she encountered or the emergencies that arose in her busy medical-surgical unit. Their house was like a small hospital: They didn’t have normal Band-Aids like the rest of us. No, they used cotton and medical tape, and if they wrapped presents, they cut the wrapping paper with bandage scissors.
I loved her mom’s white uniform and the way her stethoscope draped around her neck. And, she was the mom you wanted to have around when one of the neighborhood kids got hurt. She always knew just what to do.
As I got older and started thinking about career choices, it was this woman who helped me get a volunteering job in her hospital. I delivered mail and flowers to all of the patient units, and I got to see the inner workings of a hospital. I fell in love with the sounds of the ICU and the fast pace of the emergency department. And on the day she gave me a tour of her nursing station and explained what she did as a head nurse, I was hooked. I graduated from nursing school with my bachelor’s degree in 1997, in large part because of my friend’s mom and her nursing example.
While I always admired the nurses in my life, it wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I realized that nurses who are moms are truly unsung heroes. Nurses, by nature, put their patients’ needs ahead of their own basic needs. Many a nurse has foregone eating lunch or using the bathroom in favor of sitting with a patient who needs attention. Moms, by nature, are unselfish and devoted to their children, often to a fault. Think about it: How many moms do you know who have peed alone recently?
And when you combine motherhood with being a nurse, well, it’s a pretty badass combination. On the day a nurse graduates, she takes an oath to protect her patients at all costs, and exactly like motherhood, her job doesn’t end just because she’s walked off the nursing unit.
1. For mom nurses, the shit never ends. Literally.
Nurses spend their days packing wounds, cleaning up bodily fluids, and pretty much putting their hands where no other human would dare. Being a nurse is just plain messy some days, and for mom nurses, going home to kids means more of the same. And frankly, it can be worse if she’s living with a toddler.
2. Whether at home or the hospital, the food order is always wrong.
Hospital food is notoriously bad, and when a patient isn’t feeling well, sometimes, the standard dinner tray just won’t do. Nurses spend a lot of time making sure their patients get what they need nutritionally, and sometimes (when able) this means cobbling together a meal from the unit fridge. And they get to do it all over again at home when they trade their scrubs for a short-order cook’s apron.
3. Someone is always crying for their mother.
Nurses deal with high-intensity situations every day. Patients who are dying have families who are devastated, and an unexpected medical crisis leaves loved ones needing help with navigating the scary waters of the ICU. Nurses spend their days holding hands, encouraging patients in their recovery, and putting up with arrogant doctors who don’t appreciate their expertise. When a nurse mom gets home, she still has enough of herself to give to kiss a boo-boo, rock a child after a nightmare, or soothe a broken heart.
4. Rashes are a way of life.
Whether it’s a horrible case of diaper rash or a partygoer enthusiastically describing the skin ailment on their derrière, rashes are the bane of a nurse mom’s existence. If you know a mom nurse, do her a favor and skip asking her to look at that funky mole under your arm. Trust me, she’s seen enough disgusting skin ailments, and she does not need a piece of what you are offering.
5. The laundry never ends. Ever.
In the hospital, patients need not only their sheets changed daily but also their gowns. They need assistance with bathing and going to the bathroom, and there are days when a single patient can go through several gowns and need multiple bed changes. A mom nurse has the pleasure of going home to her own mountains of laundry and the kid who pees the bed twice a night.
6. Accidents happen. Usually in front of nurses.
Nurses are accustomed to medical emergencies unfolding before their eyes at work. An alert patient could suddenly collapse or an ambulance could present with a critically ill patient. Whatever the circumstance, nurses are called to render care at a moment’s notice. The same is true for a mom nurse on the playground, at the grocery store and intersections where an accident has occurred. A mom nurse is always ready, willing, and able to help when duty calls. And it can be exhausting.
It is said that everyone passes through the hands of a nurse at least once in their life, and since we all have moms, it stands to reason that you’ve witnessed this awesomeness in action at some point in your life. If you are lucky enough to meet a mom who is also a nurse, give her a huge hug, say thank you, and keep your mouth shut about your last doctor’s visit. She’ll thank you.