I have recently decided to put nursing on the back burner so I could 100% focus on running. It was a really hard decision. My nursing team is a second family. When you are sweating out every pore with three other coworkers giving every ounce of strength and energy into saving a human life that is actively bleeding out in front of you, it creates a bond unlike any other. Not only that, I love emergency nursing. The adrenaline you get when a radio call comes in stating a code 3 (bad) is incomparable. You are mixed with intense fear, butterflies and excitement and immediately get into your zone where ER nurses are at their best. The days where the 20 year old comes in after a motorcycle accident and you spend hours giving it your absolute best but in the end stand over a lifeless body with blood covering you and tears streaming down your face while his mom and little brother are crying hysterically are the hard days. The days you wonder why in the hell did I ever choose this career? You hug your coworkers you call your family and tell them how much you love them. You drink a glass of wine and in my case, you go for a run. The feeling that courses through you when you hug a mom with her two young daughters saying her husband with the heart attack is going to be okay keeps you coming back every day.
I have been a nurse in a hospital for three years. I started out my career on a progressive care floor which is essentially an Intensive Care step down unit and then transitioned to the emergency room which is where I really found my passion. A usual work week includes three twelve hour shifts with always the opportunity to pick up extra throughout the week. The hospital I work in is relatively small but is the main access hospital within 250 miles in our area so we have a high volume of patients we see daily. I start my morning with the alarm going off at 4:40am so I am able to make the 30 minute commute and get to work on time at 6:00am. We are assigned “zones” with nicknames such as front and back trauma zones, a side zone aka the “bat shit crazy” (this is where all the psych or altered patients get placed) zone, the back 40 zone, triage nurse or “the hole” and a fast track nurse aka the urgent care nurse. When asked which zone everyone wants in the morning you NEVER have a preference because whichever zone you pick will be full of crazies and bizarreness. You always avoid eye contact and intently study a hangnail until the charge nurse picks for you. Once you are assigned you go find the night shift nurse to see what sort of day it is going to turn out to be. If it is a full moon beware, there will be a couple of people in restraints because believe it people, the moon does weird shit to people’s psyches.
A typical day starts out fairly mild with the intensity increasing as the day progresses. You go check on your heart failure patient, the skin infection, the cute little old lady (LOL) from the nursing home with a urinary tract infection. You find out that your chest pain guy actually has dissecting aortic aneurysm (bad) and rush in there to place another IV and start drips to lower his blood pressure. He is basically a ticking time bomb so you sprinkle some good ju ju over his bed and hope the transfer team gets there quick. The registration clerk calls and states a pediatric burn patient just checked in. My heart clenches, No one likes taking care of really sick little kids/babies. They are resilient little buggers but they also break your heart. I rush the 10 month old back and focus on tasks at hand. She is screaming, good, crying is a good thing. Airway open, IV established, fluids infusing, pain meds given, baby stabilized, on to the next patient. Your day progresses into a series of quick assessments, tasks and reassessments. Your next patient has a heart rate of 200, place an IV, give medications, heart rate back down to normal. You meet so many people and hear so many stories every day. If I see a patient in the store afterward chances are I will not remember them when they come up to me and start talking. The hospital and especially emergency rooms are a memorable experience for people. After all it is their emergency. As a nurse you have to remember that and even if your patient next door is much sicker or they are annoying the hell out of you, this is their emergency. Nurses laugh a lot. We laugh at inappropriate moments and make jokes when situations seem impossible or get hard. We are human after all and the only other alternative is to cry your eyes out and who would be able to survive that?
During a shift you get three fifteen minute breaks and one half hour lunch. You slurp down as much water as you can, pee the pee you have been holding in the last 4 hours and sit down. Ahhh the sitting down part feels so good. In about 2 seconds your break is over and you are back at it. This continues all day sprinkled in with a few code blues (bad) some you resuscitate and some you don’t, a few angry patients who yell and scream and threaten you, and the families who are incredibly grateful and give you hugs when they leave. 6:00pm rolls around and you see angels (aka the night shift nurses) walking down the hall to relieve you. The sky opens and the hallelujah song blares through the loud speakers. You hand off report and step outside for the first time in 12.5 hours and breathe in the fresh air not mixed in with unwashed bodies or other human excrement. Feels so good. Why would anyone want to come back the next day? Because as a nurse, I love caring for you, I love seeing you get better when I give you medications. I love educating you on your disease, and I love holding your hand and hugging you through the bad times. I will laugh with you, I will cry with you, I will probably roll my eyes at your dramatic presentation but I will do everything I can to help make you feel better.
Now you get a little sense of what nursing is to me and what a day looks like, I will try and explain why I am placing nursing on the background for the time being to focus on running. I run for Oiselle’s elite team called Haute Volée. Oiselle has been such an amazing sponsor. I first heard about them and joined their team in 2010 and have watched the company grow and meet the women behind the clothes and team. They have given me an opportunity to continue to compete at a high level which has enabled me to keep bringing down my PRs (personal record times). Many times throughout the years after tackling a brutal workout after a crazy shift or racing on tired legs after a five day work stretch, I have thought to myself “I wonder what it would be like just to run.” I never took it farther than that though because for me, the time was not right. I was not in a place financially or mentally to quit my job and focus on full time running. This season I had set some lofty goals for myself and as I have continued to slowly tick them off one by one, I have realized if not now than when? I am taking the jump into the unknown. It is terrifying. I have no idea what is coming next and for me and that is very unusual. I am moving to Idaho to train full time with my coach. There will be other runners to train with, closer to my family, the trail system is wicked awesome. Will I become insanely faster, qualify for the Olympic Trials, make world teams and even the Olympics? A girl can dream, work hard and see what happens but no matter what the end result, I am doing this for me. I am taking this chance, packing up my belongings and leaving behind the life I have become very comfortable with over the past several years, so I can try to do what Oiselle does so good: “go fast, take chances”.