Posted on July 26, 2011
I bought a new pair of nursing shoes the other day. They are the brown slip-on variety that seems to be in vogue if you take fashion advice from a shuttle bus full of middle age women working twelve hour shifts. These shoes are a world different from my first pair of nursing shoes.
Those shoes were shiny and white. They tied up tight for extra support should you need to run down a hallway in response to an emergency. They had crepe soles so you could slip in and out of a room in the middle of the night without waking the patient that finally fell asleep with the call button clenched in his hand. There were times when they squeaked on a freshly waxed floor, usually after stepping in some questionable liquid that you told yourself had to be water…or maybe Mountain Dew. I spent hours buffing white KIWI wax into the leather on Sunday nights so no one would see the smudges acquired on the previous shifts. Those first shoes looked great but really weren’t too comfortable. When I think about it, I was a lot like those shoes.
Twenty six years ago I too was shiny and new. I didn’t want anyone to see the scuffs and smudges so there were times when I would buffer my lack of knowledge with quiet observation. I did a lot of running; usually on account of my own disorganization than any true emergency. And I squeaked aloud at times when faced with questionable situations. My support system consisted of a group of girls with equally shiny shoes and I needed those shoes to tie up tight.
Yes, these new shoes are a world different from that first pair. These shoes do not show the dirt but rather, they have taken on a weathered and worn appearance. They offer support in the arches for long days of standing, but very little running – they slip on and off too easily. They are not quiet. They make a very distinct clunking sound as I walk down the halls. I wonder what my grandmother would think of these new shoes.
She was also a nurse. Her shoes were white and laced tightly but rather than crepe soles, they had hard soles with a sensible one inch heel. In her day, nurses wore white from head to toe – dresses, stockings and caps. Nurses of her day needed that heel to remind them to stand up just a little straighter as they faced the challenges of a world where women with children rarely worked and nurses were trained. Now nurses are educated. Our jobs have evolved and the white dresses and caps were left to archives of a “good old day”. We have exchanged those early notions for scrubs and critical thinking.
I have evolved as well. I am no longer that shiny new nurse I was years ago. I don’t spend nearly as much time running because of poor organization and my support comes not from a tightly tied pair of shoe laces but from an amazing group of co-workers who freely offer their experiences and accept mine as a sort of continuing education process more easily accessed than any computer program. I let the world see the dings acquired during the day and don’t feel the need to buffer the smudges. There are still times I squeak – if only in my head – when the situation or questionable liquid calls for it but I don’t feel the need to enter a room silently in hopes of going unnoticed as I know I am there for a reason.
Yes, I think Grandma would approve of these new shoes. They are comfortable. Just like me.
(this was an essay for Nurses Week 2010)