The Family Members

The next few articles I will be posting are courtesy of I really want to thank the staff for allowing me to use their articles to help those of you who might be asking yourselves questions about how to care for your loved ones, how to overcome stress, whether putting your loved one in hospice or assisted living is the right decision or ways to live a healthier, happier life.

While most of the articles are specifically for nurses and people looking for a career in the nursing profession, I think the articles, themes and ideas could apply to any situation you’re facing, in any career, anytime, anywhere.

The Family Members

By Karyn Buxman

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~ Erma Bombeck

I’ve always loved Erma Bombeck and couldn’t help but think of her words when I was reading this NY Times article chronicling the changing nature of families and the increasingly complex web of relationships that unites people.

In some ways, the article has it right. Genealogy has gotten exponentially more complex. Medical science has played a role in this change: sperm donors and surrogate mothers are considered by some to be relatives, connected to, if not pivotal in a child’s life. Add in step families, same-sex partners and children born outside of marriage, and creating that family tree just got a little bit more complicated.

What I’m wondering is if any of that matters. There’s a lot of emphasis placed on defining what a family is. I think what’s more important – and what is both amazing and amusing – is what a family does. 

Families are like fudge: mostly sweet, with a few nuts!

As nurses, we know that family members can make all of the difference in our patient’s lives. Some families are there, through thick and thin, doing everything they can to help their loved ones deal with their health challenges. These are the families that get the blankets, pour the glass of water, change the television channel – and keep an eagle eye on doctors and nurses alike, monitoring care and advocating for their loved ones.

Other families aren’t, perhaps, as helpful. However, they can certainly be entertaining.  There are families who will teach you things you never suspected about modern health care. Who knew you could fit seven generations of one family in the narrow space surrounding a single ICU bed? Who knew that given enough persistence, you can get pizza delivered – even while your loved one is coding? Who knew it was possible to remove every single fixture from a hospital room – up to and including the television, IV stands and heart monitors – and pack them all out in an overnight bag in under twelve minutes?

Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. Every family is different. Working as a nurse, you get to see families at their worst. And you get to see families at their best. That’s what’s truly amazing: whether it’s parents worrying over a sickly child, a partner rushing to be by their beloved’s bedside, or a family gathered to say farewell to a loved one at the end of a long, full life, some things are always true. 

There will be tears – but there will, more often than not, be laughs. Funny memories shared, hysterical plans for the future – it doesn’t matter what causes the mirth. When we’re treasuring every moment we have, families of every make up find strength and solace in laughter.

It’s amusing – and amazing! – every time.

About Karyn Buxman

Karyn Buxman, motivational speaker and publisher of The Journal of Nursing Jocularity, is one of 176 experts – including only 32 women – in the Speaker Hall of Fame.  Karyn addresses thousands of nurses each year, delivering inspirational messages and reminding them why they entered the profession in the first place. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook

Click here to learn more about Karyn Buxman.


2 thoughts on “The Family Members

    • Good morning Fran!! Thank you for your comment. It truly is AMAZING seeing families in action. I’m going to run a series of articles from this week, and I hope they bring a new perspective to the blog. As you know my grandfather has Alzheimer’s so this was one of the reasons I asked to be a contributor. I’m so worried about him and what will happen to my grandmother. I think the articles will be a great addition and help SO MANY people. I hope you enjoy reading and will stop by later today and later this week to read more 🙂

      God bless and much love, Jason

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