The patient walked into the clinic for fluids. It had been a few months since I had that feeling in my gut. Any nurse can tell you about that feeling. It is this awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. It comes even when there is nothing clearly telling you why it is there. You just know you need to keep a close eye on that patient. So you do. You keep watching for something to indicate why your gut alarm has gone off.
One of my nursing professors told me that the gut feeling can’t be taught. That you can’t create a nurse, but you can shape one. I agree with her. Long before I was an official nurse I had a gut feeling. But the more educated you get, the more experience you have, the more fine tuned that gut gets especially within your specialty.
With this particular patient I stood there at the end of the day thankful for my time on the BMT (Bone Marrow Transplant) unit. BMT is not my cup of tea. It wasn’t for me. But it was for my career and clearly an incredibly important part of developing my nursing gut. It’s where I learned the signs to tell when a patient was going to have a fever and possibly go septic hours before. It is where I learned the ins and out of hematology and the key important factors when a patient doesn’t have an immune system. This is the unit where I learned to fight tooth and nail for a patient.
Or the patient in medical oncology. I had known this patient for 8 months. At the beginning of shift my gut started to alarm. In the span of 8 hours, I saw her slowly but surely crashing. Little by little she was losing control, while her blood pressure continued to climb. I kept paging, but it didn’t feel like I was being heard. I spoke through my concerns with another nurse and she agreed, at this point it was more than a gut feeling. I continued to fight to be heard. By the end of shift that patient was in the ICU. The next morning, I came in and found out why and all I could think was I’m so glad I listened to my gut.
Each experience I’ve had, each unit I’ve worked in, each patient I’ve worked with – so many were not easy. So many were challenges day in and day out where I went home feeling like I had been beat up and my brain hurt. But at the end of those days I haven’t asked if I chose the right career instead I ask “how do I can I learn from this to become a better nurse?” I chose this career because I know without a doubt I know I was made for it. I was wired with the “nurse gut”.
To my fellow nurses out there, thanks for your nursing guts. Thank you for what you teach me and for the patients you save. And thanks for understanding me when I say “something just isn’t right”. To all the nurses who have fought with me when I wasn’t being heard when my gut alarm was going off, thank you. Being a nurse means I get to be a part of an incredible team. A team that supports together and fights together.
The nurse gut can’t be taught, but it can be fine tuned. I’m beyond thankful and honored to walk beside each nurse as we all learn to fine tune our “nurse guts”.