Do You Ever Stop Being a Nurse?

I recently heard someone say, “I once was a nurse, but I’m retired now, so I’m not a nurse anymore”. I was a bit surprised by this.

I can understand being retired and not renewing your nursing license. However, I find it difficult to think of myself as ever saying I’m not a nurse anymore.  For me, being a nurse isn’t an 8 to 5 job. I am a nurse whether I’m working or not. I will probably think of myself as a nurse until the day I die. What about you?

I was in a grocery store this winter and an older woman in one of those store provided motorized carts just collapsed and fell to the floor. I was standing about speed away from her. I immediately went and checked her breathing checked her pulse rate her breathing rate and looked for any abrasions. I asked the nearest employee to call 911. The grocery store “health team” arrived within a couple of minutes. The “health team” consisted of an employee who could give first aid and a janitor. I stay close by, and continued to monitor this woman’s vitals until the paramedics and ambulance showed up.

In my opinion, having a nursing education, developing nursing skills, observational abilities, and insights, don’t just stop at the end of the workday or the end of your working life. For me, I think it’s almost instinctual. When I saw this woman in the grocery store fall on the floor I didn’t even think about whether or not I should help. I just did what I thought needed to be done (and what I would have wanted a nurse to do if I had fallen to the floor).

A similar thing happened last summer. I was two cars back at a 4 way stop when I saw a motorcyclist get hit by a car. I didn’t think about not being “on duty”. I didn’t think about whether or not I should stop because I was really tired and on my way home. I stopped and again began to access vital signs. When others who were trying to be helpful started to roll this motorcyclist onto his back I yelled “STOP” don’t move him. He was breathing, had a pulse, and was somewhat conscious so there was no need to do CPR. There wasn’t any blood pooling and large spots of blood appearing on his clothing. I was more worried about a spine or neck fracture that could be worsened by moving him. In this situation, I did very little, but I kept others from taking action that could have harmed this motorcyclist. I find that often we forget how much we DO know and that this knowing is because we are nurses. I don’t think we ever stop being nurses.

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