Bed Pans to Bedlam – A Day in the Life of a 19th Century Nurse and just how far we have come.
Between sore feet, long shifts, and fussy patients, you could be feeling like you’re on the edge of a major meltdown at work. To ease your pain just a tad, let us showcase a typical day on the job for a 19th-century nurse.
Lucky you – the nurse who arrives before you didn’t bring in the coals to combat the morning chill. Before you can start attending to your patients, you’ve got to lug in a hefty bag of rocks and load them into the central heating system so that you, the patients, and the rest of the staff don’t freeze to death.
Today, the 150-bed hospital will be staffed with 30 nurses, all nursing students. You ladies are in charge of running the wards, private rooms, operating rooms, the general dispensary, and the eye and ear clinic. When you’re a senior, you can look forward to being sent out on private duty. But, unfortunately, the hospital will get paid for your work, not you.
The rooms are filled with typical cases of delirious typhoid, dysentery, and abscesses. Your first patient of the day is a drug case, specifically narcotic. You have to keep him awake, and, as soon as possible, get him on his feet and walked around. One method is to use knotted towels, dipped in ice water, which you continuously whack them with to rouse them. This patient you walk up and down the corridor. Staggering, he goes to sleep on his feet. More ice water, more walking.
Four hours into your shift, you’re still making your rounds (42 more to go!) when you hear a loud commotion from ward D. You rush down the hall to see what the fuss is about and realize a delirious patient had escaped. Dressed in only a nightshirt and with long roller towels that had been used to confine him to his bed now trailing from his wrists and ankles like streamers, he bolts by you. Leaping down the main staircase, he escapes out the front entrance before the orderly can catch him.
Before you can return to your daily obligations, the doctor on duty requests your help. Being that he is the local surgeon, pediatrician, physician, dentist, and gynecologist, you’re not really sure what the procedure will entail. The saw is your first clue.
After administering anesthesia, the doctor begins the surgery. The procedure is a success, and the patient is wheeled away to await their wooden prosthetic, that will probably be only a few inches too short. You’re still way behind on your shift, thanks to the surprise amputation.
Adjusting your large white hat and apron, you proceed with the five o’clock temperatures. After this, you greatly appreciate the rule of two hours of quiet. Placing screens around an empty bed, you take an hour nap. After the day is finally over, you return to your quaint house to rest before another long shift.
5 Ways to Stay Happy During a Long Shift
Nurses work long shifts and when you’re on your feet for 12-hours taking care of patients, your own well-being could be put on the backburner. As a healthcare professional, your happiness is critical to maintaining both your physical and mental health, as well as for your work performance and bedside mannerisms. Here are five ways to stay happy during a long shift, even if you’re dealing with impatient patients and have sore feet.
Pay Attention to Your Own Health
Keeping tabs on your physical own health plays an important role when it comes to your mental and emotional welfare. Regular exercise boosts energy, keeping you awake and alert. Not to mention, exercise increases serotonin, your body’s natural happiness drug (but we’re sure you knew that already). On your time off, be sure to hit the gym (or the pavement) two to three times per week. Consider joining a 24-hour gym so you can exercise when it’s convenient for you.
Keep an abundant supply of healthy snacks on hand to ward off fatigue. Nuts, dried fruit, and granola can all be easily stored in your tote bag or in a drawer at the nurse’s station for easy access and consumption. Additionally, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle close by to sip on whenever you’re thirsty.
Find a Pair of Awesome Shoes
Sore feet can seriously ruin your day and while anyone can appreciate a pair of supportive and comfortable shoes, when you’re constantly on the move, having the proper footwear is essential. Most nurses that we talk to recommend sturdy clogs with plenty of room and quality arch support. Dansko is often referenced as the go-to brand but with a growing focus on the importance of proper footwear, there are now dozens of brands and styles to choose from and while some options can be a bit pricey it’s important to remember that good shoes are an investment in your own wellbeing.
And don’t be afraid to add some color and style to your footwear selection. Having fun, comfortable shoes can make or break a day in any profession!
Have a Solid Support System
When you work long shifts, it’s important to have folks in your life who understand that your work schedule won’t always sync with their own. Hopefully, your friends and family already understand the demands of your job but don’t forget that it’s also ok to let them know when you need extra support. Sometimes the simple act of talking through your day with your favorite person can make things right again.
Also, be sure to schedule in time to hang out with your tribe and let off some steam. Whether it’s a night out on the town with coworkers or a laid back lunch date with your bestie, hanging out with people who care about you boosts happiness and mental well-being.
Find Joy in the Little Things
It can be tough to take pleasure in your job when you’ve been running around for 10 hours straight. But it’s critical to find joy in mundane tasks or moments. Whether it’s a smiling patient, encouraging words from your boss, or an unexpected thank you, basking in little achievements can keep you motivated and happy.
And don’t forget to create your own joy. Sometimes something as simple as passing on a much-needed smile can make everyone’s day a little brighter, especially your own.
Having something to look forward to at the end of a long shift can keep really you going so be sure to schedule a little TLC time for yourself.
Before you head to work or even the night before, set up some candles, a bath bomb, a bottle of your favorite wine and a good book (and maybe even a bit of chocolate) so that all you have to do when you get home is draw yourself a nice, warm bath. Or, if it’s an option, ask someone else to have the bath ready for you when you walk in the door.
If baths aren’t your go-to for relaxation, promise yourself a small treat at the end of your shift. It could be an hour alone reading a good book, listening to music, or catching up on a favorite TV show. If alone time at home isn’t an option, stop at the store on your way home and grab a favorite snack or stop at a park and take 15 minutes to walk in the sunshine.
Remember, doing the smallest thing for yourself can really lift your mood and it can also set you up to successfully navigate the rest of your day, so always take some time to appreciate you.