What do you see? As a nurse, when you look at the person in your care?
I came across this poem in the mid 80’s. As a young nurse, I was still adjusting the the impact of reality on my dream bubble about being a nurse. This poem challenged me because it touched upon some of the gritty realities of the career that I had been disillusioned about.
We can learn a lot from the perspective of another and they from ours. So truly consider nurse, what you see?
- Jot down a few notes in a journal.
- Read the poem
- Write your reply
- Submit below
What Do You See Nurse?
What do you see, nurse, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far away eyes.
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try?”
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will.
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill,
Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
As I use at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who love one another.
A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride soon at twenty, my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At twenty-five now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to guide, and a secure happy home.
A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At forty my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At fifty once more babies play around my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead,
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old woman and nature is cruel,
‘Tis just to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
Not a crabby old woman, look closer – see ME!!
Here is the reply that I wrote then:
What do you see, Patient?
What do you see patient, what do you see?
What do you see when you look at me?
A person who’s never here when you put on your light,
A person who is hurried and preoccupied-
One who can’t get the IV in no matter how hard I’ve tried?
A person who’s dumb because the doctor said the contrare,
One who is disorganized because at shift change so much is up in the air?
I’ve got three other patients to care for too,
And then all I hear is “you didn’t come when I called, did you!
You wanted a pain pill ten minutes ago,
But I was in a code, little did you know.
You called for some water, but I did n’t come stat.
I was cleaning up an incontinence, can you believe that!
At the moment you wanted ice in your pitcher,
I was mapping a rhythm strip to check someone’s ticker-
When you called for a straw, I was feeding Mrs Sweet-
Do I get a dinner break?-
No, I have to eat on my feet.
You think I’m one who cleans bedpans and am a handmaiden for the docs?
Well, I’ll say to you patient, “Let me tell you what…”
I’m an individual, a mother, a student and a wife-
I’ve not only got responsibility here, but in my own life-
My car is broken, I’m getting over the flu, my bills aren’t paid yet and my Mother’s sick too-
My Lover and I had an argument today, but all this I must put aside to be here today.
Now that the shift’s over-
I’ve got paperwork to do-
You’ll think I’m long gone, but I’ll be here for an hour or two.
After all is done,
I realize it’s been awhile since I got to pee—
My gosh for 10 hours, I didn’t think of me!!
~BYoung RN 1984