A few years back, the American Nurses’ Association coined a well-received slogan, “I am a nurse, what is your superpower?”. In truth, there is nothing superhuman about what nurses do. We simply exist as an amalgamation of honesty, innovation, compassion, astuteness, intelligence, ethics and advocacy. However, there are a handful of nurses who have true superpowers. They experience things which cannot be explained by traditional science or our conventional ways of knowing. They experience the paranormal.
For any healthcare provider, the paranormal is challenging to accept because it is paradoxical to our professional identities. In fact, it is rarely heard of because these super-powered individuals tend to keep their secret tightly guarded close to their heart.
It is important to first recognize that we live in a world where life and death is very black and white. In particular, we don’t like to talk about death and there is little to no talk of the grey. This story is all about the grey. It is not meant to convince anyone that it exists, nor is it meant to scare. In fact, I hope that you finish this feeling safe and secure. I want you to know that there is something beyond what our eyes can see. But mostly, I am writing this for the nurses and other healthcare providers who experience the paranormal to help them realize that they are not alone.
I started my career as a nurse in an old, large, inner city hospital. If those walls could talk, I can’t imagine what they would have to say. With time, I came to know which rooms were “haunted”. I knew which faucets would run at the same time like clockwork each day, which rooms the call light would go off in regardless if a patient was present, and I knew which rooms people reported seeing shadows and figures in even if it was empty.
What I understood of the paranormal was not limited to just what I personally experienced. With time, I began to acknowledge the interactions that patients would have with spirit world. This was particularly prominent in those who were getting close to finishing their time here on Earth. I could just walk by a room and know their time was near. It was as if they were talking to someone invisible. Usually, their arms would be stretched up towards the ceiling and it appeared as though they were having some sort of a conversation. I saw it frequently at night. I rarely heard or understand the conversations they had, but the patients were definitely talking to someone. I know this already sounds bizarre, and maybe you will think I am crazy, but please, there is more.
While I accepted the paranormal as part of my job, I never stopped to think that perhaps I may work with people who have an enhanced experience of life.
And so my story begins on a warm, starry night out in downtown Phoenix. I was out for dinner and drinks with some of my most treasured colleagues. We were night shifters, so going out all together at night was such a treat. It rarely happened that such a large group could go out all at once.
At some point in the night, we found our way to a trendy restaurant called Hanny’s. Hanny’s was originally a prominent department store that turned into a training space for firefighters. They had a great ambiance and delicious food. We enjoyed a wonderful conversation, but before hopping out to finish off the night, we ventured down to the basement to see their infamous display of dolls. There, below two levels of posh spaciousness, sat beady-eyed dolls sitting around a table as though it was their last supper (see photo above). And this is where the pivotal conversation began.
Its impossible to deny the spooky feeling you get when you first see the table behind the metal cage so naturally we started to talk about hauntings. Suddenly, the dialogue took a sharp turn with the disclosure of personal experiences from two of our friends. For the sake of privacy, I will call them Laura and Hannah. That night, the dolls heard them whisper things that they had never shared before. And it was in that moment, with their beady eyes upon us, that Laura and Hannah realized that they had found someone who could relate to what they experience. It was as if in a single moment, the weight of the world was lifted off of their shoulders.
Reflecting back on that night, I began to realize things I had never noticed before. Like how no matter what, I always felt so safe working with them. It was more that the fact that they were experienced nurses. They always seemed to know exactly what was going on or they would predict the needs of their patients long before anyone else would.
Laura is an incredible nurse with a smile that can brighten any room. She is so clinically bright and can manage any situation with a bat of an eye. But she also has an edge by having direct interactions with spirits. She hears voices. For example, one night, as she was walking out of a patient room, she heard a voice telling her to go back and look at the patient. The patient was tucked in bed and sleeping peacefully. Their pulse oximeter was glowing red through the blankets as Laura watched the rise and fall of the chest. When she saw an oxygenation saturation in an optimal range on the monitor, she walked away. Again she heard a voice to go back and look at the patient. Laura remembers thinking there was absolutely nothing remarkable about the patient so she walked away again. But the voice persisted. It told her to go take a closer look. Laura finally went back in the room and slowly uncovered the patient. With the covers pulled back, she realized that only 1/2 of the chest was rising. The patient had a collapsed lung and it wasn’t at the point of causing any distress for the patient, but it was a medical emergency. Had the voice not urged her to go back, that patient would not have received the timely treatment that they needed. Laura’s gift followed her in all aspects of her life, however she only entertains her communication with the spirit world in the hospital where she is able to help her patients.
The other nurse, Hannah, has decades of clinical experience and is one of the most incredible nurses I have been blessed to know. She carries herself with the highest of professionalism and builds incredible relationships with all of her colleagues. Hannah is even more special because not only is she able to able visualize problems ahead of time, but she also experiences premonitions. Every once in a while, Hannah has premonitions of certain patients she will care for in the future. She never knows when she will actually meet the patient, but she would have always experienced their situation before working with them. For example, Hannah told me a startling premonition of being a female rape victim. She experienced the whole thing as vividly as though she was the girl. So when the girl came in to the hospital for treatment, Hannah understood her better than anyone else. Hannah also has the gift of seeing what we would perceive as smoke (but she refers to as energy clouds) where there were problems. For example, while taking care of a post-operative orthopedic surgery patient, she noticed the energy cloud over their knee. Being an astute clinician, she began to take the signs and combine them with her clinical expertise to know what the problem is. For that patient, Hannah asked the physician to order the appropriate tests and was able to diagnose the patient with a deep vein thrombosis and start appropriate treatment before the patient became symptomatic.
Up until that night out, each of these amazing nurses had lived in silence. They were afraid of being judged or of people thinking anything less of them. I am not naive enough to think that they are alone. I know there are others just like them all around the world who go to work everyday and do much more than meets the eye. I didn’t write this to convince you of the grey because in my mind there is no question that it exists. I wrote this for those sharing this gift who work in service to others so that they may know how appreciated they are.
Photo credit: Unsplash @rhett__noonan
Photo credit: Unsplash @rhett__noonan