How Pediatric Nurse Training Reminded Me To Have More Gratitude
When you have your health, you have everything.
My experiences as a nurse have taught me that having good health makes you the richest person in the world. On another hand, being ill makes life seem poor even if you are monetarily wealthy. It’s too bad you can’t buy your way out of an illness.
I deplore being sick. For me, illness goes something like this:
One day I’m feeling great! Then the next I wake up feeling achy and lethargic. A scratchy, sore throats kicks in and swallowing makes my throat feel like sandpaper. Everything hurts. I feel like dying. Life sucks. The end.
Just kidding. I’m not that dramatic. I’m just trying to make a point, but for the record I personally do not handle being sick well. Luckily, I rarely get sick (knock on wood!).
Recently, I received news that I was selected to ‘master in’ as a Resource Nurse in the Emergency Room. It is a 3 month in-unit training program that includes an additional 50 hours of classroom training and testing. After completion of the program I will officially be an ER nurse. Yay!
I am ecstatic about the opportunity for emergency and critical care training as it will build my skill set and hopefully make me a better nurse. Additionally, I will have to be trained in pediatrics which is a whole new specialty for me. I am excited about that too, but the Mom in me is a little nervous about seeing kids in pain or any kind of suffering.
As part of my preparation for training this week I completed a Pediatric Advanced Life Support Certification course and shadowed a Pediatric nurse for a 12-hour shift. While I am still very far from being competent in Pediatric nursing, it was an informative opportunity to be exposed to the kinds of things Pediatric nurses do on a day to day basis.
There is one overwhelming thought that has stayed with me since my experience working on a Pediatric Unit:
I am so grateful that my child is healthy.
We are lucky to live in a world where there are so many medical professionals who dedicate their lives towards helping sick children (and all people of course, but for the purpose of this post I am talking about Pediatrics). Working with very ill or injured children is challenging and emotionally draining. Yet the nurses I shadowed on the Pediatric unit are happy to be there. Most importantly, they are competent and knowledgeable.
Up until now my nursing career has involved working with adult patients 18 and older. The shifts can be exhausting to say the least. At the end of my 12 hours I am often too tired and emotionally drained to even think about talking about many of the sad and difficult situations that unfortunately occur. Its often easier just to block it out of my head and move on.
Soon the ER will be my new place of work and my new job description will include children and even babies. There will be situations that are critical and possibly catastrophic. As a Mom (and obsessive lover of small humans) I will have a lot of adjusting to do in this new area.
Practicing gratitude is so important (especially for the gift of healthy children!)
When life gets busy it is easy to take a child’s health for granted. You assume they will be healthy because they have always been healthy.
Between all the cooking, cleaning, working, errands, play dates, and (fill in the space here) time slips away and it is so easy to forget to focus on the magnificent joy of having a child who is free from illness or injury. The only time people often think about health is when it is no longer there.
Gratitude is just a way parents can pay attention to the gift of good health today. No one can predict what will happen tomorrow so you might as well live in the moment!
Imagine that your child was sick and had to be in the hospital for an extended period of time. Or worse, if they were in an accident or received a devastating life threatening prognosis.
I have never experienced any of these scenarios myself. But I imagine they would probably be the hardest thing I would ever have to deal with as a parent. In my years as a nurse, I have seen a lot of families at the hospital in similar situations. I’m not sure where they find their strength and I’m sure in those moments they take nothing for granted.
Gratitude keeps us grounded and in the present moment.
Gratitude allows for positive energy to permeate in the NOW and not stuck in an annoying situation that has passed.
It’s important to understand the difference between normal difficult life situations and the kind of catastrophic situations that occur when your child is sick or injured. 99% of the negativity in our daily lives as parents isn’t really as bad as we make in in our minds if you really think how many good things are happening.
Hanging out with other Moms is like therapy for me. Venting to an extend is important. We get to talk about frustrations and experiences while surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who have the same interests: our children.
But too often gratitude is not present in many of these conversations and they can easily turn into a pessimistic venting session of who has it worse. I have heard many conversations with parents comparing their gloomy situations with other parents. Negativity is contagious. Next thing you know you are hyper-focused on the negative and completely overlooking the awesomeness of being a parent in the first place!
Gratitude puts child-rearing challenges and perceived annoyances into perspective.
Not everyone gets to have a healthy child, or even a child at all for that matter. Being a parent is a privilege.
There are parents who practically live at the hospital for weeks, months even years at a time because their child is sick. A ‘normal’ crazy busy day with their child at home would be the best gift in the world.
So when a child is being difficult it is important to remember that we are lucky enough to have healthy children to discipline in the first place. Not everyone gets that opportunity.
Here are a few ways to practice gratitude for continued good health!
1. Keep a gratitude journal
Intentionally choose gratitude. Writing down what you are grateful for consciously reminds you that even though parenthood is frustrating at times, the good stuff far outweighs the bad. It keeps you aligned with the positive aspects of parenthood that we should keep our energy focused on (like watching my kid have fun watching and playing with other kids).
2. Watch the language (internally and externally)
What you say and think becomes reality. In other words, if you think life sucks, then it does. That becomes your truth. Gratitude can also become your truth if you make it a habit.
Kids are sensitive and pick up on attitudes and the words coming out of their parents mouths. Fortunately, gratitude is also contagious!
Or meditate or have a positive mantra, whatever works for you. The point is to essentially say “thank you” and bring awareness to the positive aspects of parenthood. Meditation is my thing and it works for me every time. Especially as my daughter, Zoe becomes more independent and adorably (and sometimes frustratingly) sassy.
4. Take care of yourself!
Its hard to practice gratitude when you are too exhausted all the time. You know how when you are on an airplane and they say in an emergency that you need to put the mask on yourself first, then assist your children? Its pretty much the same thing here.
When your basic needs are being met it is so much easier to be grateful for the other miracles in your life. So be nice to yourself.
Parenthood is a glorious, overwhelming and at times maddening thing and I am glad I’m in the thick of it. Zoe brings 1000 new levels of joy that I never knew existed prior to parenthood. I am so lucky that I can bask in gratitude that right now my child is healthy and happy and her parents are too.
Sarah, Mother Nurse Love