Breaking Protocol.

A few weeks ago, I didn’t have time to put gloves on.

A unbathed newborn baby decided to stop breathing, turned blue, and went limp in his momma’s arms. So I grabbed that little one and began doing the things we do to help. I put my bare hands all over that unwashed baby’s body, pleading with him to catch his breath.

Sometimes, that’s just what we have to do.

I’m a nurse. I’m scared of ebola just like you. 

Maybe probably we all are.

I’ve read a lot about the two nurses in Dallas who’ve contracted ebola, women living a life I’d like to think similar to mine.

Falling in love. Laughing in the break room. Holding the hand of the stranger in the hospital room. Putting others first, at least 12 hours a day, because their pay depends upon it and their heart demands it.

There’s a rumbling underneath many of these articles. Comments at the bottom of them that make my heart hurt and my anger ignite.

I get it. We speak out of fear. We must place blame somewhere. We must find a way to explain the (potentially) unexplainable.

She must have broken protocol.

I can’t believe she got on a plane.

The CDC and the hospital administration failed that nurse in Dallas.

Maybe there is validity in all of these arguments. Maybe there isn’t. And to be honest, I’m really not concerned about who is right.

Because here’s the thing.

The most perfect of protocols are carried out by imperfect humans. 

Nurses, physicians, technicians…we all make mistakes. We are incapable of perfection, but work in professions that demand it. We stay up all night, we miss lunch, our feet hurt. We miss soccer games, family dinners, and Christmas Eve. A minute can change everything. The time it takes to put on a glove or a mask may be the difference between a life or a loss. So every once in awhile, a needle sneaks through a glove. A baby delivers into the bare hands of the delivery nurse. A sneeze lands on a mask-less face. And we scrub our hands, rinse our eyes, and pray that nothing snuck through during those moments of vulnerability.

Protocols are broken, mistakes happen, in the middle of our strivings to save, to revive, to heal.

So why are so many flinging blame in all the wrong places? Why are we criticizing protocols, nurses, and the CDC?

Perhaps those two women followed protocol perfectly. Perhaps they lacked adequate resources to protect themselves. There’s a whole lot of maybes in the middle of one truth. They knew the risks to themselves and THEY WORKED ANYWAY. Their desire to help was stronger than their desire to run.

“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'”

Deuteronomy 15:11

Celebrate them. Applaud them. Pray for them. Respect them.

Let some else deal with assigning blame.

Yes, I’m a nurse. I’m scared of ebola, and HIV, and hepatitis. I’m scared of needle sticks, blood splatters, and Code Whites.

But I’m more scared of a car accident where no one is willing to hold the victim’s hand. I’m scared of a child delivered into the world without being caught by the hands of me or you. I’m scared that the voices, the protocols, the rules in my head will someday completely drown out the inclinations of my heart.

So please, hear this.

Your nurses WILL make mistakes. We are fallible, imperfect men and women.

The day we let those imperfections stop us from doing what we do, we all lose. 


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