Poem: Happy Birthday, Janet

The Backstory

Janet is one of those rare, amazing nurses who can do it all.

She is our “lunch relief” nurse. Her job is to show up every day at 11 AM, check patients’ blood sugars, and watch each nurse’s patients while the nurse takes a half-hour lunch break.

It’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.

As we rush around in the morning, falling further behind, we start glancing at the clock. Is it 11:00 yet? Is Janet here? And as soon as she steps onto the floor, she is bombarded.

“Janet, can you start an IV in room 104? No one else can get it.”

“Janet, will you give a pain pill to the guy in 115?”

“Janet, I can’t place this naso-gastric tube! Can you insert it for me?”

“Janet, I need a large-gauge IV in room 101, and the guy has no veins! Will you do it?”

“Janet, I just got an admit! Will you check her vital signs for me and settle her in? Bring a bucket, I think she’s throwing up.”

“Janet, how do I use the Hoyer lift, again?”

“Janet, I need you to place my PPD for my annual TB test!”

“Janet, will you get the discharge paperwork ready for the lady in 112? Oh, and call her meds to her pharmacy? And do the discharge teaching, too? Like, right now? She’s in a hurry.”

“Janet, do you have time to start an IV for me?”

“Janet, I can’t find the patient education material on diabetes! Will you get it for me?”

“Janet, my patient is crashing. He can’t breathe, he’s turning blue, and his blood pressure is dropping. Will you pop in and fix him?”

“Janet, the sky is falling! Can you hold it up, please?”

Yes, she can. And she does.

All of it.


She cheerfully, calmly, and seemingly unhurriedly moves from room to room, helping nurses, saving lives, putting out fires, starting one IV after another, responding to emergencies, fixing problems before they become emergencies, while simultaneously doing her official job of checking blood sugars, giving insulin, and sending nurses to lunch.

On time, thank you.

It is impossible to do all of that at once, without looking busy. But she does it. Every day.

On holidays, although she’s not scheduled to work, Janet shows up with beautiful homemade meals. She feeds us. She comforts us when we need comforting. And sometimes she orders us to quit whining, to buck up. She looks us straight in the eye, wags her finger at us, and tells us off. She always seems to know what we need to hear.

She is beloved by all.

Oh, did I mention that Janet was a Licensed Vocational Nurse, not a Registered Nurse? So she went back to school, too. She did all of that cheerful “helping nurses, saving lives” on very little sleep while maintaining excellent grades, and ultimately acing the RN exam. That’s just who she is.

LVN, RN, doesn’t matter. Janet is one of the finest nurses in the whole hospital. She is also my Birthday Buddy. What in the world could I do to honor this amazing person?


I could write her a poem…

Happy Birthday, Janet!

It’s one of those days on the med-surgical floor,
All heck’s breaking out, and there’s bound to be more.
Doctors want – stat! – the results of a test,
Patients have pain down their arm and their chest,
IV’s are all blowing, everyone’s throwing up –
They throw up in basins. They throw up in cups.
The admits are coming. Others want to go home.
They’re calling for pain meds, a sandwich, a comb.
Blood sugars need taking! Need a PPD placed!
Need info on Occ-Health! Need it all now! Post-haste!

And just when we think that the battle is lost,
And there’s nothing to do but go out and get sauced,
Janet shows up! And we know all is well!
She arrives every day and she saves us from –
.                    er, chaos and confusion.

In a flash she gives pain meds! Sends nurses to lunch!
Wades into battle on multiple fronts!
She checks the blood sugars! Throws IVs into veins!
Discharges patients! Beats back the flames!

In a couple of hours, no one’s calling to pee.
Patients are quietly sipping their tea.
The call bells are silent. No nurse lights – not one!
How does she do it? How’s she get it all done?
No one’s restrained. The patients aren’t drugged –
(Has she yanked patient call bells and left them unplugged?!)

She comforts us, saves us. What a nurse! What a friend!
She feeds us at Christmas. Tells us off now and then.
She’s the star of North 1 – to her talents we sing!
Our Janet can easily do everything.
She’s amazing. Efficient. She outshines the rest.
Happy Birthday dear Janet: We think you’re the best.

2 Comments Poem: Happy Birthday, Janet

  1. Natalia Masters

    Awesome Carol. All of it’s true. There has been many days I’ve said if it wasn’t for Janet, I’d know not What to do!!!! Not only do her nurses love her but her assistants do too!


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