Nurse Appreciation Day came and went. So did the appreciation day for teachers. Since I’m a school nurse, I cashed in on both. The free build-your-own-baked-potato giveaway was my favorite, I think.
Through it all, I watched both groups wax poetic about their jobs, which I appreciate, because I like mine too. I’m also a massage therapist, and I love that job just as much. It’s really an amazing experience to use your hands — and only your hands — and have a person with chronic pain tell you they haven’t felt so good in months or in some cases, years. I don’t think we even have a massage therapist appreciation day.
Which brings me to my point here — possibly unpopular point. These appreciation days, I have come to conclude, are basically reserved for those who are in professions who on the day in and day out feel utterly UNappreciated. Maybe even have a need to justify their value to the rest of us because they are so pooped upon constantly.
When I was a news reporter, which still remains the longest part of my adult life, I remember feeling so proud of what I did. I felt, honestly, like a key component in the very democracy we all cherish. That without the work we were all doing, the very foundation of our nation would be in peril. And I still believe that. What journalists do, appreciated or not by the governmental leaders they watch over, is in fact, enshrined in the very top of our Bill of Rights. It was so important to our founding founders that it was considered the the very first thing to protect in this new land. So, I never doubted my worth and value when in a newsroom or in the career I was in. And I never needed a public appreciation day to tell me so. In fact, the criticism from those we covered served as a bit of validation that we must be doing something right. Nothing would make you think you were a crappy reporter than for the public officials to be giving you “attaboys.”
And later, when I became a massage therapist, I loved every minute of my education, literally soaking up every word my teacher spoke, treating every volunteer who came to our volunteer tables like treasures. I remember the firefighter, the burn survivor, the little old ladies who trusted us inexperienced students with pains that plagued their bodies, and I felt honored. As my career in that profession moved forward, I have felt the highest of appreciation from clients, including medical professionals, pro athletes and again, little old ladies, who have come to me for god-awful sciatica, and one memorable emergency room nurse who thanked me profusely after several Thai massage visits for her low-back pain after “years” of no relief with other medical efforts. This list goes on. There is hardly any greater appreciation a person will get than that of a grateful massage client. Some even cry tears of gratitude. It’s an amazing experience. I never felt I needed a “day” for the world to appreciate me in this profession.
I’m sure people in other professions feel the same way.
Mortgage brokers and real estate agents help people fulfill dreams of becoming home owners and are appreciated every day. Custodians at the theme parks are amazing because can you imagine how terrible it would be if they went on strike? I’m pretty sure they aren’t paid enough, though, and possibly don’t get the recognition they deserve, but surely they should feel pride looking at their beautiful park. They do an amazing job everyday, turning the place into “new” each and every day.
My wife is a software developer and trust me, we couldn’t live without them. They launch space shuttles and run your cell phone, your laptop and basically keep our world operational. No need to really toot their horn because I think they know they rock. Who else? Let’s see. Mechanics? Plumbers? Are you kidding? Do you really think we need a mechanic or plumber appreciation day? Just try letting your toilet or transmission go out. They KNOW they are needed. Plumbers charge cardiologist rates for a housecall. And we pay it with less whining than we pay the doctor! What about the AAA driver? Dude knows we love him. Kiss kiss kiss. The guy gets it every day.
But, for me, then came nursing. And particularly, the hospital. It is a culture of people who are pushed and pushed to keep educating themselves constantly and continually, well into deep debt, sometimes to better themselves, other times to better the hospital’s rankings. Those with Associates Degrees are working on Bachelors and those with Bachelors are working on Masters and those with Masters may be heading out the door to greener pastures. If you aren’t, you are asked continually why not?
It is a culture where you may not get to eat until hours into your break, almost time to leave even, because the patients are many and needy. It’s a culture where the fatigue is ever-present, and jelly beans become fuel at 3 a.m. And it’s all just the expectation. Its a culture where the staffing is so short that “critical shortage” is a normal phrase an has come to mean “more money” for those willing to work. But if you happen to be scheduled on that day, oh well, too-bad, so-sad, no more money for you! It’s just “broken” as they say.
But when the surgery goes fantastic, the baby is born healthy, the patient is discharged just fine, the family turns and says, “thank you DOCTOR!!! What would we ever do without you?” Not that the doctor isn’t fantastic, because certainly nurses don’t diagnose and don’t administer medications without orders, but understand hospitals have large sets of “standing orders” and involve a huge, huge array of things your nurse does for you using her “nursing judgement” and the doctor is making decisions based on the eyes and ears of that nurse. Changing shifts every 12 hours, they are monitoring the bedside 24/7 while your doctor has had eyes on you for 15 minutes, taking report from that nurse. The nurse who may have handled your care at the most critical moments is often not even there when you are discharged. She is actually off to another patient — or five.
The nurses themselves become each other’s support network, cheering each other on, championing each others’ educations, understanding each others’ struggles. And it’s ok, because in several months, there will be a Nurse Appreciation Day and someone will bring around a basket of Kit-Kats.
And then there are the teachers. Where should we even start? Can I even start? I work in a school now. I don’t even know where to start with this one. Should I start with the discipline issues they deal with daily or the globs of paperwork and meetings they have to attend or the number of cars that remain in the parking lot well past closing time? Should we start with the teachers buying their own stuff for the classroom or the ones that are calling parents and getting no return phone calls or the ones calling and getting reamed out because their kid who skips class continually is failing their class and it is somehow someone else’s fault? Should we start with the fact that they are trying to teach math, science, and second-languages to students who are bringing toys to school – multiple kids in a class — many of whom have Individual Education Plans that call for “minimal distractions” and such? Or the pay, which isn’t so much to put up with all of that? I won’t even start on any of it.
Because, you know, those free Appreciation baked potatoes are rocking.