Today I had breakfast, with a dear friend, of over 35 years this morning. We laughed and talked like it had been just yesterday since we had been together – this time it had been over 4 years – the time before it was 10 years since we had sat in person and talked.

As we sipped coffee, she detailed a story of her mother having surgery in 2007 that not only upset the family but scared them with the type of nursing care she had received. After having several issues with her health that lead to back surgery the post care had to be handled with kid gloves.

Anyone going for surgery is already nervous about laying their life in the hands of Doctors, nurses, and a hospital. You lay helpless on a table that will be making changes to your body. Listening to someone who had an experience that scared them post surgery as much as pre-surgery makes me stop and think “What kind of care am I giving to the ones that are trusting me”.

What are the secret ingredients that make a season nurse beyond good but great?

As a mental health nurse I deal with patient's emotions and behaviors that sometimes lead to physical situations. When a new nurse arrives on the unit – everyone is watching that person to see what the reaction will be to a high risk situation.

  • A seasoned nurse is calmer they do not question what needs to be done – they just step into action. It flows out of them without thinking. A younger nurse will sometimes freeze or back up waiting for someone – anyone to step in to take over.
  • A season nurse handles stress and can remain calm (at least until the event is over)
  • It is not that they have become numb to stress or have become heartless, they go into nurse mode caring for those that are in need at the time and will take a deep breath later.
  • A seasoned nurse has learned a way of communication that is firm, and to the point, she says what she means and means what she says. She has to speak to doctors, patients, fellow co-worker, family members.
  • Avocation for her patients. When the nurse sees her patient in danger – or a doctor is making a decision that is not best for that patient the season nurse stands up and speaks for the patient – and wins a lot more battles than the new nurse does and calmly.
  • Education in the class room and on the floor continues to teachers all nurses. The nurse never stops learning or teaching others.
  • Seasoned nurses are active leaders. They know how to handle situations that arrive, management, doctors, patients, and taking care of themselves to avoid burnout.
  • The secret ingredient to becoming not a good nurse – not an OK nurse – but a great nurse …. is time. Of course there is always an exception to every rule but the most part. Time teachers nurses to become the role model for the next generation.

As a nurse, I have spent taking care of others I have fought with my patients – laughed with them – stood firm with redirection – had physical altercations – Belly laughed so hard I sacrificed – encouraged – prayed with them – listened – and learned. I hope I never stop learning as a nurse.

In the course of your day you hear peoples life stories. As a nurse in mental health that is the largest part of my shift – listening. If I do not listen, I could miss a piece of the puzzle.

Every nurse has a story to tell. Are you sharing yours?

Are you a nursing lifer? Share your comments.