The best way to learn a foreign language is to be submersed in the culture. You need to order your breakfast, ask where the toilets are, and pay for movie tickets in the native tongue. Medicine is the same thing. You can’t dip a toe. You have to dive in.
If you’ve never been to nursing school, it’s nothing like college. This is hard. You study (yes, even the really smart people who never have to study have to study) like a maniac, then get up at 5 in the morning for rounds. You take care of actual live human beings and try really hard not to fuck up and hurt them. You work until you want to cry some days. You run every time there is a bedpan to empty or a bed to change because you have to prove yourself. You have to want to succeed and you have to prove it to your instructors and the hospital nursing staff. You clean up puke without gagging, you do procedures that hurt the patient and you don’t cry. You suck it up and keep going. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. Then I remember that drama isn’t going to help me, so I get out my books.
This piece is called “Waiting Room.” It is hand embroidery with cotton and linen floss on a scrub smock from the Army hospital where I was born. This shirt used to be a deep burgundy, but it has seen countless surgeries, lives and death. This shirt has seen blood and vomit and tears. It’s been washed too many times to count. Now I see the blood and the scrubbing and I watch to see how it will change my colors.
I’m just plain grateful to be a part of medicine.