She was a professional nurse at our hospital, not much older than me, and with no time during shift-work to see her private gynaecologist, she made the scary decision to come to the hospital’s gynae-clinic (scary because she would most certainly be seen first by an inept medical student before seeing the specialist).
I had to page her when I was ready for her, and while waiting for her to arrive I went through her latest results. I saw that on the same day as her last Pap smear, she had had an HIV-test. It was her six-month follow-up test after an injury on duty.
It was a moment that reminded me how connected healthcare workers are. We work long and strange hours that cause us to neglect our own health. We expose ourselves to the flavour-of-the-season bugs. In the heat of the moment resuscitating a patient we are at high risk of being stuck by a wayward needle.
Medicine is nearly inseparable from our lives and sometimes it seems the only people who understand that are other healthcare workers. Other nurses, other doctors, and maybe the final year student that does your speculum examination and hopes to God that it doesn’t hurt.
Why are we in a war against each other? I am so tired of seeing bitter Pins and Tweets about how nurses are taught “wrong”, or how doctors care “less” than nurses, or how we could survive without one or the other profession.
We are the ones that can help one another. The ones that can rub our backs when the side-effects of the PEP seem intolerable. The ones that will recite seroconversion statistics ad nauseum to give us hope, but would never suggest that our fears are unwarranted.
We are the same. We have different qualifications but we are all the same in the sacrifices that we make and the love we have for our patients, and sometimes we are the ones who will help reignite that long-forgotten passion when bureaucracy and burnout threaten to maim us.