Maryanne Ivil, 54 years old, a Quincy Massachusetts LPN of 35 years, and a recently certified Registered Nurse, spoke with us, reflecting on her journey in nursing. From her candy striping days as a kid to revisiting Quincy College in 2016 for her RN degree, Maryanne brought a dedicated passion to nursing that continues to this day.
As Maryanne pondered last year’s moments of strife and triumph, she recalled one particularly harrowing moment. An incident that, when all was said and done, tied together her life’s experiences as a nurse.
On the call, Maryanne retells the incident. Her action did more than save a man’s life, it gave his wife enough time to say goodbye – an incident not of miraculous revival, but of something more meaningful: closure.
Trauma Nurse for a Day
Reflecting on Life as a Nurse
Maryanne had worked in a variety of settings throughout her nursing career. She’d been an acute care nurse in the hospital, in home care, as a utilization review nurse, in social care settings, doctors’ offices, and rehab nursing, working all three shifts throughout her career. She had even been a nurse manager and a case manager. But her favorite care setting is geriatric nursing.
“At the end of someone’s life, people deserve to die with dignity – with someone at their side that’s caring and compassionate enough to do that,” said Maryanne. Providing care to the elderly is different from reviving someone, a common concept in other forms of caregiving. In fact, it’s not an act of revival at all. It’s an act of providing closure to those at the end of their lives and to their loved ones. “Working with the elderly, they’re always so grateful for the time you spend with them.”
Maryanne thought about how appreciation – genuine appreciation – can go a long way.
“I always used to say to people that sometimes your family doesn’t truly understand what you do as a nurse,” she said. “And the reason why is because all they see, all they feel, is that you’re late to the holiday party. Or you’re not able to go to it at all.” It wasn’t easy to explain to her kids that her life, her calling, required that she treat her patients with the same dedication as her own family.
“My kids would always say, ‘Mom, how come you have to work on a holiday?’ And I’d say, ‘because people need care 24/7. On the holidays that I do get to spend with you, another nurse is in [the facility] taking care of the residents. So today, I’m returning that favor.’” As she reflected on the unique rift dividing nurses and their families she kept saying, “but it comes full circle.”
On that day in the post acute care facility, her responsibility was to keep her patient healthy with her care and expertise. The absence of a nurse would have left the patient without health – without life. And on that day, she was the nurse that was there.
“Nurses can only stay on-shift for 20 hours unless there is an emergency,” she said, noting that emergencies like the one at the rehab facility are common. “Other people can close their laptops and go home. Other people can shut down their grocery aisle and call it a day. Nurses can’t do that,” she explained. “People’s lives are on our watch. If another nurse doesn’t come, we have to bite the bullet and stay for a second shift,” not only because post-acute care nurses are tasked with preserving the lives of the at-risk population, but because they are contractually and legally obligated to. “It’s not something my kids understood until they became parents themselves.” If a nurse isn’t there, someone could lose their life.
As her kids grew up, they began to understand what being a nurse meant: the late hours, the canceled plans, the exhaustion. The calling of nursing even found her daughter. As she slowly began to step into her mother’s shoes, she gained an appreciation for her mother’s work – a full circle arc of realization. She wrote a poem to all those out there who love a nurse, whether their mother or significant other. She shared them with Maryanne who recited a few as follows:
I suspect it’s hard to love a nurse.
But know this:
your nurse needs your love,
needs your understanding,
needs to know that you get it,
needs to be the one taken care of every once in a while,
needs someone else to take charge of the details
because doing it themselves constantly is exhausting,
needs their feet rubbed,
a shoulder to cry on when they can’t even tell you why they’re breathing,
needs you to do the hardest work you may ever do:
to love a nurse.
“I used to laugh sometimes when my daughter would write these,” she said. Her daughter had written these pieces throughout awakening to the life of a nurse.
I suspect it’s hard to love a nurse.
We get up early and don’t have time to drink coffee over the newspaper.
We come home late and are too tired to cook.
We work extra because we know there are sick people who need us.
We miss weekends, events, holidays, and birthdays.
We don’t get too excited over your minor booboos. We have seen far worse.
We don’t want to talk when we come home. We have talked all day.
We don’t want to move when we come home. We have moved all day.
It may seem that we have left all our care in our heart and our love at work,
then have come home to you, empty.
We don’t tell you that at work we are mired by anxiety.
We are scared when we have to confront things that we’re not sure of.
I’m scared we are missing something.
I’m scared we will let our patients down.
I’m scared that we’ll have to deal with an angry or violent patient and their families, possibly.
We don’t tell you how the staffing crisis makes us cry on the way to work and on the way home.
Work we love, but are now terrified to do because it is breaking us down while putting the most valuable and vulnerable at risk.
The completeness. The air of closure in Maryanne’s voice when reciting her daughter’s words was uplifting. “My daughter sent this to me because she now knows what I went through. Nursing is truly a full circle.”
. . .
At IntelyCare, we believe, like Maryanne said, that nursing is a full circle act. As part of this circle, we care for our nursing professionals the way they care for their patients.
See how we put our IntelyPros first.
Stay up to date on info, tips, and stories from your fellow IntelyPros! And don’t miss out on key resources we share on our socials!