Prostitutes and Italian Restaurant Owners

How do you know if you are having a good day at work? What is the measurement of success or happiness with your work day?

Is it sales? Purchases? The size of a paycheck?

Before I became a nurse I worked as a real estate broker. My productivity was easily determined by the number of houses I sold and the number of apartments I rented. I enjoyed the concrete-ness of my successes. And I had great pride when I was able to relay this information to my co-workers, friends or whomever may have asked me about my work.

I imagine that in every profession the degree of success is measured differently.

Nursing, especially home care can be a very abstract type of nursing. My patients are not acutely ill but usually dealing with some type of chronic disease. My job is to provide care and education that most often does not produce concrete results. So, how do I measure my success? How do I know I am being a good nurse? How do I know if I’m doing it right?

I quickly learned that my productivity as a home care nurse was based on how many patients I saw in one week. It became very important to me to track these numbers. I still have all of the calendars I have used to track my weekly schedule and the patients I have seen each day, each week and how much overtime I got for every day since I started working as a home care nurse. This may seem obsessive but it was all I had. It was the only tangible way I could track my “success”. I didn’t really bother me because it was the norm with the nurses I associated with. They all talked about their “numbers” the same way.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to become wound care certified. This was very exciting for all sorts of reasons. First of all, I hardly knew anything about wound care and the thought of becoming certified was a bit of a relief for me. I had felt sorely inadequate because I really had no idea what I was doing when it came to wound care and it seemed that there was no one to help me. My supervisors were somewhat helpful, more helpful than the physicians, but I wanted more. The class was everything I had hoped it would be and more. One unexpected benefit to the class was the ability to literally measure my success as a nurse. I would measure the wounds weekly and track the improvement based on the decreasing size of the wound, resolved infection and decreased depth/tunneling. Until finally the wound was (hopefully) healed…I felt practically godlike.

I realize I am lucky to work at a job where my customers (patients) are always (mostly) happy to see me. I feel bad for people (dentists) whose customers are not quite so happy to see them…or worse, I feel bad for people who work at a desk all day and only see the few people they work with. I have not worked at that type of job in 16 years. At the time I didn’t mind it because I worked with a fun group but I can imagine how different that would have been if I hated my work or my coworkers. And I can imagine exactly what that is like because my dear husband works for the city of New York and not only does he hate his job but deeply dislikes most of his coworkers.

I get a lot of smiles, those are great. I get many thank-yous, those are great too. I recently got a “we so appreciate the work you do, it must take a lot of strength”, that was a particularly special compliment as it was given to me while I was crying in my patient’s home soon after his death. I get few hugs, they do not seem to be a popular form of gratitude. I have received quite a bit of chocolate, some cash, a couple of cards and various gifts including a dress, lipstick, a pin, and once I received a beautiful serving utensil from the adult child of a patient who had recently passed away.

As it turns out I can easily measure how good of a day or week I am having by counting how many kisses I have been offered by my patients and their families. The kiss is truly the treasure. Throughout history, the most valuable currency is that which is the least common, or most precious.

I suspect there are other professions that can also use kissing as their currency of success. My husband and son suggested that these are mostly prostitutes and owners of Italian restaurants. I’m not sure how accurate that is. I don’t know if prostitutes kiss their clients. I know that Julia Roberts had a strict no kissing policy in the movie Pretty Woman. I don’t have any other prostitute experience so I can’t say for sure. I do suspect that owners of Italian Restaurants get kisses a lot although I have never kissed one or seen one receive a kiss. This may be because I only go to Kosher Italian restaurants and they are filled with mostly Jews who don’t typically kiss the owner, maybe because they are Jewish and not usually Italian. I would have to do some research on that.

But the fact remains, when I get that kiss it fuels me and inspires me to do better and to be better. Hopefully tomorrow will be a kiss-worthy day.

Things I have learned:

  1. Gratitude comes in all forms.
  2. Success can be measured in countless ways.
  3. I (possibly) share one of my work goals with that of a prostitute.
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