Q: What do you think your superpower is?
A: There's the easy way to do things, and then there's the right way. As a nurse, and as a person, I will always do the right thing, even if that requires more time and energy. I strive to always head in that direction and not take the easy way out.
Q: What is your name and where do you work?
A: My name is Christiaan, and I am a travel nurse right now — a travel ICU nurse.
Q: What made you decide to be a nurse?
A: Honestly, I was at a point in my life where I didn't know what to do. I had tried a couple of other majors and was at a turning point where I was simply trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, you know? So, I decided to explore nursing and took a CNA course. Being able to hear people's stories and be a helping hand — that resonated with me, and so I decided to pursue nursing because of that.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: It depends. I've been rotating shifts, so sometimes I work nights, sometimes I work days. Regardless of what it is, ideally, it's 7AM to 7PM. Often, that can turn into 13 or 14-hour shifts, depending on what the workload looks like. In the ICU, the golden standard is that you have two patients, but there's been so much turnover, and a lot of places have less than ideal staffing, so we sometimes have three ICU patients, which is a lot. Sometimes you feel like you can't give the best of you to every single one of your patients when they're all that critical, but I try.
Q: What do you wish that people outside of healthcare knew/understood about nurses?
A: I feel like as a patient, sometimes when you don't see your nurse for a while, it may feel like they're just off messing around. The reality is that we are on our feet for over 12 hours straight. Sometimes we get to sit down to eat, sometimes we’re eating on the go, and if I'm not in your room, it's probably because I'm in another patient's room. Very, very little time is spent relaxing when we’re working. There's so much charting that has to be done in order to meet insurance requirements and compliance standards, and that can take away from the time I would truly rather spend being bedside, helping my patients.
Q: What do you think your superpower is?
A: Full disclosure, I knew this question was going to be asked, so I FaceTimed my wife to ask her what she thought my superpower was. I have a hard time gassing myself up, I have a hard time being my own hype man. My wife said that my superpower is that I always do the right thing. There's the easy way to do things, and then there's the right way. As a nurse, and as a person, I will always do the right thing, even if that requires more time and energy. I strive to always head in that direction and not take the easy way out.
Q: Can you tell us about a moment or story that reminds you why you love being a nurse?
A: I once had a patient with kids who were around my age, and it was a really, really sad case. I was just trying to be there for the family as best as I could, really got to know them well, and I had this same patient for a stretch of five or six days in a row. After the sixth shift, I went out to dinner with my wife, and we were sitting there and I happened to see the patient's daughter across the bar, and I just nodded my head at her. Later, when it came time to pay our tab, the waiter told us that our check was already taken care of.
Having someone recognize and show unwarranted appreciation like that — it really hit me. I was grateful. At the same time, I'm doing what I do to take care of a loved one, my patients. I'm not looking for any sort of extra recognition. My goal is to make sure that my patients and their loved ones are better off than I left them.
But having that extra recognition was nice. The daughter had one of the other nurses call me to let me know truly the impact that I had on them and what it meant to have me help take care of the family and the patient. She was letting me know that they were going to withdraw care, and I was like, "I'll be right there." I packed up my stuff and ran to the hospital really quick. It was such a heartbreaking situation, and it just felt right to be able to be there in that moment with them.
I feel this whole superhero movement — “Nurses are heroes,” “Healthcare heroes work here,” and the taglines that hospitals put on the side of their buildings... When I think of a hero, I think of someone who is doing what they do without fear, and I'm sure I can speak for every other nurse out there this last year, we were fearful. We’re humans doing our job. No, we were fearful too and fearful for ourselves for our patients. It might be exciting to be labeled a superhero, but I also think nurses are far more complex than that.