I’ve been terrible about keeping up with this blog. But I feel as though today’s experience warrants a post at the least.

Lately, I’ve been feeling terribly burnt out. With all of the social events of the spring, my introverted self was tired of people and needing a recharge in the worst way. The terrible night at work last night didn’t help the situation either. And by terrible, I mean two traumas rolled in almost simultaneously as I was literally giving report to another nurse on my patients so I could go home. Almost two hours after what was supposed to be the end of my shift, I finally clocked out and left the hospital. And instead of being given the courtesy of allowing me to come in later since I stayed late, I was told the ER was busy and needed to come in as scheduled. When I noted the remarkable lack of activity in the ER, I was irate and wondering what could have happened to prompt them to not let me sleep a little longer when they could have handled being a nurse short for a couple of hours. Then I found out I was tricked by our director and charge nurse into coming so that I could receive an award.

The award is called the I CARE award, named for the values of the hospital (Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Excellence). I was nominated for this award by a supervisor who received a call from a patient I’d had who experienced the “worst day of her life” (a remarkably accurate description of that day for what it’s worth). She said that “the compassion [I] showed her was extraordinary” and that I was a “wonderful human” whose care was “beyond words.” She also stated that I “changed her outlook” on male nurses.

Now, I’d been aware of this phone call for about a month because the supervisor that took the call texted me about it. But I didn’t think it anything past that text message. But in that time I was standing at the front of the room with the other award recipient as the presenter read my supervisor’s recounting of the phone call, I had no other option but to think about it. Well, I had another option, but I didn’t really feel like staring awkwardly at the crowd while somebody tooted my horn.

In those few hours as her nurse, I carried a load of responsibilities that I didn’t even realize. For one, I was not only representing the vocation of nursing, but also the specific demographic of nurses. Our interaction had the power of reinforcing her preconceived notions, but instead I was able to harness that power to “change her outlook.” I was not only responsible for executing the tasks to clear the patient medically, or even for reassuring, calming, and teaching her; I was responsible, at least to that one particular patient, for representing male nurses everywhere. And to me, it was business as usual. And for that moment up in front of my coworkers and fellow hospital staff, I realized how bizarre it is that business as usual for me can be life-changing for those whom I care for.

Now, I’m not totally oblivious. None of these concepts are new to me. I became a nurse to heal people not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. I’ve read plenty of those pro-nurse articles that pop up on my Facebook minifeed or Pinterest. But for the first time in a while, it got real really fast. And it was a pleasant jarring of my perception during a time when I was starting to just go through the motions.

It was a reminder that nursing is not just the science of treatment but the art of healing; that my mundane may be enough to change someone’s perceptions or even life. It was a daunting reminder of the magnitude of the impact I could have in a matter of hours. But the more I thought about it, the responsibility I’ve chosen to be saddled with shifted into more of a privilege.