On being a nurse 2021 and getting a key to Narnia

Being a nurse this past year has meant a lot of different things. None of us expected to be a nurse during a global pandemic and we watched in horror, with the rest of the world, as our colleagues struggled.  It was a scary time to be a nurse and has really pushed the boundaries for a lot of us. So, when I was asked to be a guest speaker at our city’s Nurses Week celebration, I of course said yes, even though public speaking is something nightmares are made of for me.  I had two days to whip up a speech and try not to poop myself as I walked up to the podium. No really. After speaking, I was surprised to listen as the last speaker, a fellow nurse, actually thanked me personally for the guidance and teaching I had given her when I was in the Pediatric ICU. To hear her say that lots of nurses eat their young but I was not one because I welcomed her from day one and shared all of my knowledge with her to help give her building blocks to be a better nurse, had me in tears. I was then honored to be given a key to our city and to be told how much of a difference I made in people’s lives in our community. The tears, ya’ll. They would not stop streaming down my face. Also, I am really hoping this key opens the wardrobe to Narnia or something. I mean, it has to have some perks, right? This recognition is not something I would ever thought I would get because I am “just a nurse”.

The best way for me to honor all my fellow nurses out there right now is to post exactly what I said about being a nurse and hope it makes an impact somewhere on someone.

Good morning, I am Kristann Monaghan, and I have been a nurse in this community for 24 years. I graduated from NAU and never left. Some of you might recognize me. I might have taken care of your family members or your kids when I was a pediatric nurse or you might recognize me as an author or as The Fat Girl Running on social media. When Mayor Deasy asked me to speak, I was honored but honestly, I couldn’t think of what to say because I am just a nurse. As that phrase floated through my head, I realized how many of us say that. We are just nurses. And it isn’t true.

You see, we are not just nurses. We are the people who give up weekends, holidays, birthdays, kids events at school and even sleep to be with you when you need us the most. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. We gladly sacrifice these things to do our job. We are the ones who are in your hospital room probably more than you would like and we often come home feeling like we need decontamination showers after work. This past year, I saw nurses give so much of themselves with COVID. Nurses chose to live apart from their families so as not to infect them, worked long hours in full PPE, they worked without PPE, they made their own PPE, and they work short staffed due to the amount of patients.  These men and women who are “just nurses” didn’t even consider quitting during a global pandemic because this is what we do. Nurses get puked on, slip in blood during a trauma, witness things that most people would feel are horrors, and hold people’s hands while they die so they know they are not alone. Our long hours, our blood sweat and tears, our lives that we sacrifice to take care of you and yours, these are all things we knew going into the job. We still chose to become just nurses. We don’t expect to be patted on the back and told we did a good job because we are just nurses.

Just nurses also listen. We listen to heartbeats slowly fade away. We listen to monitors alarming that something is critically wrong with our patients and we rush to fix it. We listen to doctors barking orders at us fast and loud in a crisis. We listen to patients when they say they don’t understand and we stay and explain. We listen to the first and last breaths someone takes. We listen to your prayers. We listen to your fears. We listen to your secrets. Just nurses listen.

I love being a nurse. Absolutely love it. I salute all people who want to become a nurse. It is the hardest profession you will ever love. You get yelled at, swore at, swung at and even spit on. Nurses are amazing people. We have to keep our emotions in check to do our jobs. You might not know it, but when your loved one dies and I am their nurse, I hurt too. You might not ever see my tears. I save those for the bathroom, my car driving home and most frequently in the shower. Want to know why? Because I need to be there for you who just lost their loved one. I need to hold your hands, hug you and help you decide on hard decisions like funeral homes and organ donation. This is part of being just a nurse.

As just a nurse, I am a singer (and not always on key) to distract an IV being placed in a child, a comedienne to cheer up a chronically ill patient, a counselor to listen to a someone tell me why they tried to commit suicide, a cheerleader when a patient is able to take a step for the first time on their own after a major trauma, and sometimes a superhero to a 4-year-old because I can magically hear their “heart beeps” with my stethoscope. These are all of what I am. THIS is what nursing is about. THIS is what nurses do.

If this is what you call being “just a nurse”, then I am proud to be just that . . . a nurse.

Oh yeah. I didn’t die today. I did manage not to poop myself as I gave a speech, but I didn’t die. I am the Fat Girl with a key to the city that I hope opens the wardrobe to Narnia Running. The experiment continues. . .

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