Nurses & Teachers: Appreciating the Under-Appreciated

I know today is a popular day to blog about Mother’s Day. And certainly being a mother and having a mother play a big part in my life. But I’m going to skip that topic in lieu of 2 other groups we’re appreciating this week. Teachers and Nurses. I suppose they go together, because both professions have a lot of elements they share with mothers. Plus, a lot of mothers I know are teachers and nurses, including my own mother.

Confession: I’m not a huge fan of these awareness days/weeks/months. I think they give people a false sense that they’re doing something when they’re not (sorry, I know, this is not a popular opinion). Wearing pink in October doesn’t actually do anything to help my friend who has been battling metastatic breast cancer for years. Putting a purple lapel pin on my lab coat doesn’t help my patients with pancreatic cancer. And, frankly, I think we’re all aware enough of the various diseases we have awareness events for.

But this is really a different issue for a different blog post. And professional appreciation holidays are different than disease awareness. But they fall into my same sort of beef. We should appreciate nurses and teachers every day. Because they works their asses off every day. So, I’m going to give my own variety of shout out to the men and women in these professions, but I do this with the very large asterisk that I do my best to appreciate nurses and teachers every day, and I think we all should strive for that.

*climbs off soapbox. Gets to point of post.*

NURSES

I work in healthcare and have been a consumer of far more health care than I’d like in my life. So I have been touched by many nurses over the years. Some fabulous nurses got me through some hard, scary times as a child. I probably didn’t appreciate them fully at the time, because I was a kid, but looking back I can say with certainty that a few stand out as making my adventures with sickness a little bit easier. And I know a few of them also went out of their way to make things easier for my parents. Which is so important, because I can’t imagine anything scarier for a parent than to know your child is sick.

NOTY Nurse Nicki hard at work (NOTY=Nurse of the Year, but sounds so much dirtier).

NOTY Nurse Nicki hard at work (NOTY=Nurse of the Year, but sounds so much dirtier).

Now that I work in healthcare, specifically in surgical oncology (ie, cancer surgery), I work with a lot of nurses and nurse practitioners. They make my job easier every day and I am eternally grateful for this. And I know my job, as a research coordinator and manager of our tissue banking program, only adds to their workload.

They say they understand that it’s important work – and it is – but I’m sure there are moments they curse my name because I add to their already huge to-do list. Because, of course, their patients’ immediate care comes first. And my research is stuff that will hopefully benefit hypothetical patients somewhere down the road. Yet, as much of a pain in their asses as I must sometimes be, they are nothing but friendly, helpful and gracious to me.

Much more important, they are amazing with their patients. The people we see are facing one of the most horrible diseases known to man: Cancer. And not just any cancer, but often pancreatic cancer (I work with all GI cancers, so liver and some colorectal, but pancreas is our focus). Which has one of the worst prognoses of any cancer. So these patients face a huge uphill battle. Many of them get very sick. Almost all of them eventually die.

Yet these incredible women (I say women because, although we have male nurses at our hospital and clinics, I work only with women) are cheerful, friendly and positive. I can only imagine that they are a bright spot in an otherwise dark journey for these patients and their families. I’ve witnessed patients telling the nurses and NPs as much, and I’m sure many more feel that way. I can’t say enough good things about the nurses and NPs I work with, and the many others I know but don’t work with directly.

I also have many friends who are nurses, and they too display nothing but dedication and compassion for their patients. I don’t witness them firsthand with their patients, but from the conversations we have about our jobs, I know they (mostly) love what they do, and do it because they genuinely care about their patients.

So nurses, thank you for doing what you do and being awesome at it. I appreciate you this week, and all the other 51 weeks out of the year (although maybe slightly less during my 3 weeks of vacation, since I avoid work and doctor visits doing those weeks).

TEACHERS

I have an extra-special place in my heart for teachers. Probably because I was raised by 2 and am married to 1. My mom was an elementary school reading specialist (who raised a voracious reader and writers – go figure) who went on to get a PhD in elementary education. My stepdad was a high school social studies teacher. So between home and school, it’s fair to say 95% of my life up to age 17 was influenced by teachers. Of course I had a few bad ones. But mostly they were good and a few were phenomenal.

teacher

Dan hard at work, enlightening young minds.

Now my mom has turned her teaching skills on my kids, and is making sure the next generation of her offspring is readers. MissA knew her alphabet before anyone else in her daycare class (yes, blatant bragging – but that’s all Nana and not me). And my husband has taken his not-quite-PhD in physics and become an instructor at UW-Milwaukee. And my kids are in daycare part time, so they, too, have teachers. So I’m going to acknowledge here a few of the best teachers I had over the years.

Mrs. Worf, in 4th grade, was the first to really nurture my writing. Because of that, I started writing my first “novel” while in her class. I finished it a year later, 124 handwritten pages with about a girl named Lindley. It had a romance. It had a kidnapping. Some things are destiny, I guess.

My 7th grade language arts and social studies teacher, Mr. Kennedy, saw something in the shy, awkward girl in his class. So he sat me in the back of the room, then called on me and insisted I “speak up” and “be dynamic.” Because of him, I came out of my shell and evolved into the raging extrovert I am today. So, if I’m too loud or talk your ear off, it’s Mr. Kennedy’s fault.

I had a lot of other great teachers over the years, from kindergarten all the way through my masters degree. But Mrs. Worf and Mr. Kennedy are the ones who made the biggest impressions.

And now, many years after Mr. Kennedy brought me out of my shell, I’ve seen Miss Anne, one of my daughter’s daycare teachers do the same for her. My own MissA blossomed in Miss Anne’s classroom and I hope as she grows she continues to find teachers who nurture her the way Miss Anne did. And the way so many of my teachers did for me.

And, of course, just like I have many friends who are nurses, I also have many friends who are teachers. Like the nurse friends, I don’t see them in action, but I know they are passionate about what they do and care about their students.

So, this weekend, while you’re thanking your mom for all she’s done for you, remember to thank a few more who go through life doing often thankless jobs. Teachers and nurses get shit on, figuratively and too-often literally.

And remember and appreciate them the other 51 weeks each year. They deserve it.

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