Saturday, April 4, 2009

Thoughts about my job . . .

Today I got a nice little present from a pharmacist at work. She bought me a latte from *$ for setting up a printer on her computer at her work station. As a nurse, you have to be a plumber, an electrician, IT, McGyver, therapist, maid, cook, problem solver, saviour, etc, etc, I find. All things to all people. I just want to fix things and make people content.

I don't talk a lot about my job on my blog. Maybe in order to be sane, you have to leave everything there, "compartmentalize" the stuff that goes on there and don't bring home the drama and tragedy that numbs you to it. I don't know if that is good or bad in the long run, but it gets me through the day, and I feel I better handle it than some. I've seen what it's done to people I work with. Divorce, high blood pressure, mental problems, anger, stress, relationship difficulties. I don't want to bring it home so it consumes me and live it beyond the confined of the hospital. People should only be exposed to that kind of stress a couple of times in their lives - the death of a loved one, a close call, a serious health scare, an accident. We are exposed to this on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. I've seen evidence of what it's done to me. Higher blood pressure at work, stress, anger, more seizures, lack of sleep, previous lack of care about my own health before I started taking care of myself. Running has really helped and concentrating on putting goodness and nutrients rather than crap into my body. The dogs have helped. It makes me realize how precious our human life is and how fleeting it is. We can go for an instant from nurse to patient, to deceased. How many dead peole have I talked to right before the end? How many last words have I heard? Too many.

This reflection has come from the news that a former fellow nurse much younger than myself is dying of cancer. She has two children that are so young now, that they will not remember her when they grow up. That is sad.

Something I found on Facebook:

"Patients aren't always satisfied with how well nurses communicate," a recent Medicare survey revealed. Well, nurses had no trouble communicating with me after I defended them (last) Sunday. Nurses from recovery rooms, coronary care, pediatrics, geriatrics, ER and Trauma units e-mailed me across the country. Here's what they had to say:

Come walk in our shoes for a 12-hour shift. Come see the joy, the tragedy, the comedy, the 100 ways we are pulled and pushed, then rate my "pleasant greeting", "answers call light in timely fashion", "states name of patient."Use the bathroom now, because you might not get the chance again until your shift ends.

Wear comfortable shoes. Don't worry if they're clean. They'll end up with blood and vomit on them.

We are the patient's advocate, the doctors' eyes and ears, and everyone's scapegoat. We can page your doctor but we can't make that doctor magically appear. We check your stitches, wipe your blood, drain your pus and empty your bedpan. Nursing is a tough job, but we're tougher. We've been yelled at by administrators, supervisors and doctors. We've been kicked, slapped, punched, spat on, and sexually harassed by patients in various states of delirium, mental illness, arrogance, and intoxication. We've even had chairs and food trays thrown at us. We work mandatory overtime, weekends and holidays. We eat Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with coworkers.

We deal with families who ignore visiting hours, bring food to patients on restricted diets, and insist on staying the night even though it's not a private room. We deal with the Florida son who orders us around to show a parent he's neglected for years that he cares.

We cannot be at your side every waking minute. We have 10 other patients. We cannot answer 5 call lights at once. We can't stop doing CPR on a patient because you ran out of tissues. We are not maids, beauticians, or cocktail waitresses. We are professionals with college degrees. We hate that we can't spend more bedside time with you.

Swearing at us will not make us move faster. Taking better care of your health would help. Quit smoking. Lose weight. Start exercising. Stop drinking. How do we survive? We ignore the nasty comments, the demanding relatives, the crazy staffing grids. We count to 10 before speaking. We pray every morning for strength and wisdom, patience and empathy. We drive home tired and frustrated, telling ourselves over and over, "I'm not the nurse I want to be, but I'm the best nurse the hospital staffing allows me to be." We fall asleep praying for the ones who won't survive the night. There is no finish line, ever.

Nursing is demanding, fulfilling, and we can't imagine doing anything else. Nothing beats washing blood and glass off a car crash survivor, stabilizing a broken neck, saving a diabetic's leg, keeping a cancer patient in remission. The day we send a patient home we relish the unbelievable resilience of the human body and spirit.

We did not become nurses for the hours, the salary, or the glamour of it all. We became nurses to make a difference. We don't ask for much. One sincere Thank You makes all the thankless hours worth it."

PS: I wish Nicole & her family all my sincere sympathies. I wish things had turned out better for you. You deserved better.


Tracy said...

That was powerful. Every nurse that I've ever encountered (and luckily for me, not many) has been an absolute angel.

My sympathies to your friend and her family.

Ted said...

Wow - your post just BLEW me away. This is it - I officially *heart* you. There is one word that struck in my head. You are HUMAN. I am glad you had the opportunity to vent this. You are entitled to what you feel and you use your blog as an outlet. My sympathies to your friend and her family as well.

Carrie said...

Thanks for the comments! I didn't expect this from a post written in the middle of the night.

Kelodie said...

I agree, this is a very touching post. You are so right when you say our life can take a turn at any moment.

I'm sorry for your friend. :(

Ian said...

Ah ... my daughter has just started her University nursing course this year so I think I will keep this one to myself.

The same daughter starting nursing spent 5 years in and out of hospital during her early to mid teens and we experienced all levels of care from nursing and medical staff who were skilled and compassionate to those who were frankly dangerous and / or others who didn't give a damn. Through all of that experience it was formative in her decision to pursue nursing.

What you wrote was excellent.

sue said...