How in the hell are you still a nurse?

Ah yes. My favorite question….mostly because I don’t even know how in the hell I’m still a nurse sometimes. It’s funny because one of the first sentences that came out of my mouth after the night Spencer died was..

I’m supposed to work the next 3 nights…

Well you flipping idiot, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WORK. Like duh. I took 3 months of medical leave and initially I had said I would never be a nurse again. I remember Spencer’s MIL saying

That might be a little dramatic, Mackenzie.

And me being the stubborn person I am did NOT think I was being dramatic in the slightest. But joke is on me because I returned to work in the Medical ICU 3 months after Spencer’s passing.

I was nervous going back. I wasn’t sure if I would remember how to be a nurse, how to care for those critical patients that required majority of my brain cells that seemed to be taken over by other little things like the entire grieving process… I wasn’t sure how my mind and my body would react to a patient coding especially if I had to be the one to initiate those compressions.

For a long time I struggled with being at work. I was uncomfortable. I was sad. I was exhausted.

Being completely unable to take care of yourself while trying to take care of other people does not work. Do not try it. You will fail. 

And rightfully so! How in the world can you fill someone else’s cup if yours is shattered in tiny pieces on the floor. You can’t.

And then it happened. My patient was crashing. I knew what to do, but I was not comfortable.

Rhythm change
Code blue
Time of death

I felt like I was watching myself the whole time. I remember standing at the bedside, my best friend had come to my patient room to help me. She knew. She looked right at me and had 2 questions,

  • Is there a pulse?

No, I said

  • Do you want me to start compressions?


The family wanted us to stop CPR. The daughter laid on top of her mother sobbing. What did I do wrong… I thought. NOTHING MACKENZIE. You did everything you knew to do to try and save this patient. I felt tears welling up in my eyes so I offered to walk the patient’s daughter back out of the hospital so she could go home. She was handed a belonging bag with her mother’s things and we walked out of the room.

The patient’s daughter was the first person I talked to about Spencer’s passing. I really just wanted her to know that someone else understood what she was feeling.

I get it

But by the end of our walk to the spinning doors at the main entrance, she was expressing how sorry she was for my loss.

It was awful. But I made it through my first code blue. And I knew I could still be a nurse. I could still critically think. I could still pour my heart and soul into being a nurse and from then on I decided my past experience would only make me a better nurse.

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