According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, nearly a third of all practicing physicians are women. That’s no surprise. Because even though most of us are not trained medical professionals, we all have some sort of inherent trait inside us that drives us to take care of people. I don’t know why. We just do.
So some of us embrace that trait, combine it with intelligence, diligence, and a whole lot of education, and become doctors, nurses and medical technicians. The rest of us lack the formal education yet somehow become pseudo-nurses and care givers for our own loved ones, learning as we go along. It is a role we rarely ask for or even want. But we embrace it, combine it with our multi-tasking abilities and our Everyready Bunny energy levels, and do what we have to do.
I think virtually every RW I know is currently caring for special people in their lives who need them. It may be young children, who routinely need boo-boo’s tended, teens who need emotional guidance, handicapped siblings or cousins who need support, ill friends who need comfort, or aging parents or grandparents who need extra help. No matter who it is, or what the need, we don our invisible Florence Nightingale costumes and jump in to the fray. And, I should add, this is all done while we are holding down jobs and family life.
Today was the perfect illustration of this R.W. Nightingale Phenomenon. I started my day talking to a friend at work about her trip the day before to get her son some specialized medical care and equipment. I heard from another friend about some health issues with her parents, and what she was doing to help them. At lunch time, I met my handicapped brother at the oral surgeon’s office to help him through some follow up work done after a recent surgery. After work, I picked up my son from a counseling session, and went home to tend to my husband who found out from the doctor today that he has pneumonia. The nurse at my brother’s assisted living facility called to have a discussion with me about his new medication. I texted with one of my BFF’s, who happens to be a doctor, who had come home after a more than 12+ hour day to take care of her family and check on her aging parents. And finally, not to be left out, I did a medical foot-bath treatment on my dog who has some issues with the webbing between his toes.
Certainly, as we get older, the medical needs of our loved ones, and even ourselves, increase. But this caregiving role is not reserved for us mature R.W.’s. I know several younger women who are either taking care of children with special needs or illnesses, or older generational family members who are aging and declining – and sometimes, they are dealing with both at the same time.
Every step of the way, we are learning, we are asking questions, we fumble along as we are having to make decisions, and we are trying to stay positive and strong because others need us to be there for them. Yes it is exhausting, often frustrating, and frequently stressful. But our care giving roles also complete us, fulfill us and make us who we are. Best of all, we have each other to lean on for support.
Tonight, as I texted my BFF, I told her that I was pouring myself an adult beverage, and I was taking extra vitamins. I thought that would be an effective combination for my evening. She texted back “as a Doctor, I approve.”
At the end of the day, we all need to take off the nurse’s uniform and believe that we are doing the best we can. And rest assured that we have indeed, in some small way, made a difference in someone’s life.
“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.” — Florence Nightingale.