Tag Archives: nursing

Do you know about Someone’s Son?

Do you know what happened today? I became a published author! Granted, it’s just an essay in a nursing journal, but it’s kind of exciting to me. Not only because it’s validating, in regards to my writing, but because it’s a story that changed my life and I’m just full of joy it’s being shared.  Maybe, just maybe… it will change someone’s perception. That’s how we change the world…one person at a time, one story at a time, right?

I find I do my best writing when I’m being honest. Not necessarily honest about other things and other people, but about myself. When I strip down to the raw details, exposing my flaws, owning my deficits… being real… it doesn’t matter if anyone else likes it, or praises it, or praises me. All that matters is I’m being true. And I think everyone can relate to someone being honest and vulnerable, whether they agree with them or not.

My essay tells the story of a difficult nursing experience I had with an alcoholic.  Spoiler alert: I’m the asshole in the story.  If you want to check it out, you can read it in the American Journal of Nursing by clicking here.

This shameless plug of my newly published essay was written in response to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Social Consciousness Saturday.

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS September 30-17

 

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Not just any patient

By now, most of you probably know I’m a  nurse. I write about it frequently. I can’t help it…there’s just so many worthwhile stories to tell. Or maybe, it’s just because that’s what takes up most of my life. I could write about taking my kids to basketball practice, but I don’t think that would make for much of a read. Well, now that I’m thinking about it, I do write a lot about my divorce. No, not the actual divorce, I guess. More like, “life after the divorce”. There’s been some pretty worthwhile stories to tell there, too. There was that time I fixed my leaking washing machine, and the stories of validating my children’s feelings when I couldn’t make things all better. And we can’t forget the time I unclogged the dishwasher drain…my grossest story, yet! But today, I’m telling another nursing story…

This one takes place back when I worked at the local hospital. I was caring for a sweet older woman named Janet. She wasn’t feeling well, and was admitted for testing. We got along great. She was a third generation townie and one of the local elementary schools was named after her father. She was a retired teacher from that school, and just so likable…I took to her right away. She was classy and well-educated, yet funny and down to Earth. She always had her pristine, blue robe on because it just wasn’t appropriate for someone like her to walk around in a johnny. I think maybe I was on my second or third morning with her when she received the news…cancer. Metastatic. No curative treatment. Damn.

I saw the doctor walk out of her room. He had already told me the diagnosis before going in. My heart was heavy as I walked down the hall. We’d only had a few days together, but still…it was uncomfortable walking in there. I’d say this was around my 3rd year or so of being a nurse. I’d seen patients get bad news before. I’d seen patients die right in front of me before. The thing is, 3 years is not a long time, as far as nursing goes. I still hadn’t acquired the skills you don’t learn in nursing school. The human skills. Connecting. Communicating sincerely. The things that are the best part of my career now, were not second nature to me, back then. I kept waiting for those instincts to kick in, to know what to say or do to make someone emotionally feel better in times of despair, but it hadn’t happened. I didn’t know how it was supposed to happen, but I’d seen it in the older nurses and figured it just had to come with time. I hoped I would even be able to tell, when the time came…if the time came. I had the physical skills part down pat, but that other part…I just didn’t have it yet. I knew that walking in her room, and hoped she wouldn’t notice.

I softly spoke. “Hi Janet”. She was sitting up in bed, with her hands clasped on her lap. We looked at each other. This is where that emotional part would have come in handy, but like I said…I didn’t have it yet. I started to go towards her IV pole, just to check it, so I’d be doing something other than standing there, not knowing what to say. I walked around her bed and held her IV tubing up, scanning the line. It was working perfectly fine, so that was a kind of dumb idea. I let the line go and met her gaze again. “Well, it looks like it’s bad news”, she said. She looked kind of sad, but also kind of shocked…like she was watching a movie, but a movie of herself. Pretty much a normal reaction, I suppose. I’d seen it before, in my other patients. I’d gotten a pit in my stomach with my other patients, too…but this time felt different. That’s when I realized, Janet wasn’t just any patient. We had formed a bond. I sat on the edge of her bed, wanting to say something to make her feel better. That’s a problem, right there…because there isn’t anything you can say to someone who was just told they have a terminal illness to make them feel better. Nothing. So, I sat there and sighed. And she sighed. As we looked at each other, it suddenly didn’t seem awkward at all. It seemed real. I mean, the kind of real you get when life hits you hard with a fast ball. I knew that’s how she felt, and I could feel it, too. I think just sitting there, absorbing that fast ball with her, was enough. I think it was the most comfort there was to give.

After a few minutes, she sort of shook it off…that shocked feeling. It’s like she stopped watching the movie and came back to her real life. She said to me, “Well, what do we do now?” Crap. How the hell was I supposed to answer that? I couldn’t tell her to just sit there alone while I tended to my other patients. I couldn’t tell her to think about which hospice company to use. I couldn’t tell her to make sure her affairs were in order…though those were the only thoughts running through my head. I started to feel nervous, when all of a sudden, I blurted out…“Want some ice cream?” She just stared at me for a few seconds, then looked at the clock. It was 10:30am. She looked back at me, and slowly but surely…a smile formed. “What do I have to lose? Let’s eat ice cream at 10:30 in the morning!” She giggled, and I joined her in the laugh as I trotted out to the kitchen and came back with two chocolate Hoodsies. We sat side by side that morning, looking out the 3rd story window, contemplating life, smiling and eating ice cream. And that’s when I became a seasoned nurse.

 

 

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Apr. 1/17

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Not a short shift

My new job as a visiting nurse allows me to have a fairly short day, for the most part. Working from my car allows me to complete a lot of my computer work from home, so I’m rarely out later than 2:30 or so. It’s a pretty awesome benefit of the job.

Yesterday, we had a snow storm. My kids were at their dad’s, and I had no plans on a Friday (the new “single me” is kind of boring), so I volunteered to pick up a few extra patients (the new “single me” isn’t rich, either…so overtime is not a bad thing). I didn’t get home till 5.

I was assigned a woman in her mid 30s. This young patient, on paper, seemed like one I wouldn’t be spending too much time with. I arrived and started looking through the orders, took her vital signs and discussed what we were going to do…basically my routine for everyone. As we were chatting, we discussed our younger years in high school. We talked about the types of kids we hung out with back then, and the different things we used to do. She said she hung out with older kids, “cool kids” and of course, ended up getting in trouble with them. I told her I did the same. She said, “all those kids that I thought weren’t cool are all now successful, married and settled down, and I’m here living with my parents”.  As I performed my nursing tasks, she started to open up a bit, filling me in on her history of drug and alcohol abuse, along with her subsequent overdose. This girl was lucky to be alive.

Now, 10 years ago, the old me would have been completely turned off by this story. I would have looked down upon her for making those “choices”. I would have made the small talk as short as possible and high-tailed it out of there as soon as I was done. I would have judged her. That was when I was sleeping through life. Thank God, I’m wide awake now. “You’re only 32 years old. You have plenty of time to be successful and settle down, if you want to”, I said to her, matter of fact-like, as I went about taking care of her.  She just looked at me. I can’t say what she was thinking, but I felt like maybe she didn’t get that type of conversation too much from people, other than maybe her mom. I could feel her energy, and it was positive. This was not an evil, negative, bad person.  This was a sweet, positive, good person who got caught up in the wrong circle of life. I’m sure she did make some “bad choices”, which led to other things that weren’t choices. She could have been me, or I could have been her, had only the slightest thing gone differently along the road. I went on. “I was in my 30s when I became a nurse. Before that, I spent my life as a waitress”. She piped in, “I’m a waitress, too!” I explained how I never thought I would ever have a real “career”, but decided to slowly chip away at it, one class at a time. I talked about the women in my nursing class who were in their 60s and just starting out. I mentioned all the places around our area where she could sign up for classes, and the different things she could try for a career. I tried to speak in a manner that was believable, which really wasn’t that hard, because I was telling the truth. I did believe it wasn’t too late for her to accomplish something in life…I just needed her to believe it.

As I finished up, she complimented my necklace. It’s the throat Chakra symbol. I explained my reasoning for wearing it… speaking my truth. That led to a conversation about yoga and meditation, which led to a conversation about writing in journals and going to therapy. I’m not supposed to talk about my personal life with patients, but I broke the rules yesterday. Nothing too intimate, but I did let her know that therapy was the best thing I ever did for myself. We both talked about “stuffing things down” inside that box you keep in your soul. I’m sure we stuffed different things down there, but it doesn’t matter. When the box is full, it weighs the same, no matter what type of trauma you put in it. I talked about “the process”, and how focusing on that, instead of the end result, is what’s bringing me inner peace. She’s started therapy for the first time, and after hearing about my passion for writing as a part of healing, is eager to start a journal. I suggested she try out some guided meditations and gave her the name of a nearby yoga studio, for when she’s physically healed. Before you knew it, over an hour had gone by. I could have talked to her all day. Why can’t supporting and empowering women be a career? I’d love that job…

Yesterday ended up being a long day. I went to bed tired and slept in late. This morning, as I thought of that last shift, I did not think of the 6 other patients I saw. I thought of her. A young woman in recovery. I didn’t pity her. I didn’t look down on her. I didn’t judge her decisions. I wasn’t disgusted by her. I believed in her… do you think that was enough?

 

 

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Mar. 11/17

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Supermarket nurse

Today, I stopped by a supermarket on the way to see my last patient. It’s her birthday and I wanted to buy her an orchid, because she’s special to me. I’m standing in line at the checkout behind a woman of about 70ish. She compliments the flowers and asks who they are for. I tell her it’s for one of my patients and she says, “Oh, you’re a nurse?” Before I can even answer, she props her elbow on the counter and begins to tell me about the “recent biopsy on my uterus for polyps and I’m going for an ultrasound today and I’m a little concerned because they haven’t gotten the results from the biopsy yet and I’ve been staining every day since the procedure and they keep telling me it’s normal but I’m not sure it’s normal and why do they want the ultrasound if they haven’t gotten the biopsy results yet”…literally going on and on and on, just like that. I couldn’t help but smile, because we’re in the middle of a crowded checkout line and I’m thinking “what other profession gets this kind of response in a supermarket?” as she’s blurting all these personal details out to a complete stranger…and I’m TOTALLY fine with it and SHE’S totally fine with it. People are kind of looking at us with a “T.M.I.” look on their faces. A cashier opens up the next register and motions for me to come over, kind of smirking like she’s thinking, “I’ll save you from this conversation”, but I can’t just leave this anxious woman with that ball of worry consuming her, so I stay and reassure her that light bleeding after a biopsy is common and getting both procedures sounds like protocol. You could see the worry just float away from her face with that one sentence. Why she felt better with it coming from me and not her doctor, I have no idea…but we both just rolled with it. I wonder if I said it in a way that validated her emotions? I think hearing it over the phone and seeing it come from a real person can make a difference. I felt sincere when I spoke to her. I wanted to ease her pain. People were still looking at us…some smiling, others furrowing their brows. What…you’ve never heard the uterus being described as “very vascular” at the market before?  We kept chatting about it for a bit, like old friends. It was a pretty awesome and rewarding experience, considering I wasn’t even at work. I finally go over to the next line and she’s still talking to me, kind of yelling over the magazine racks to ask me questions about where I work, seeming pretty happy now. I don’t know why I find this story so enjoyable, but I’ve been SO happy ever since it happened and it’s still making me smile. I guess I just love random interactions with people that end up being positive experiences. It makes me feel satisfied and connected to the world. I wouldn’t change being a nurse for anything…

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It never goes away

I’m a nurse. A visiting nurse, to be exact. I travel around town, spending 30-60 minutes with ill people. They are mostly senior citizens, doing what they can to keep the clock ticking. I find the job to be quite rewarding.  My purpose is to help these fellow beings stay home…to keep them relatively healthy and out of the hospital. I’m a helper by nature. It doesn’t even seem like work, most of the time. It feels like helping out my neighbors…which is literally what I did one day last week.

I was assigned a new patient who lived around the corner from me. She’s about 80 years old and suffering from some fairly decent health issues. Two of her children live with her, in her 2 bedroom condo. They take turns throughout the day taking care of her…giving her medication, doing housework, managing her care. This was my first time meeting her, so I reviewed her chart as we began the visit. Her illness has a huge impact on her life, and it’s not something that can be fixed.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up on hospice by the end of the year. I noticed “depression” as one of her current diagnoses. I kept that in mind as I performed my assessment…listening to her lung sounds, her heart beat…assessing her medications. I talked to her, asking questions about how she was feeling, then about her family. I could tell she was worried, just by the tone of her voice. She told me about her children bickering about how to take care of her and how to juggle their jobs and lives while doing so, about how defeated she felt about her diagnosis, about how she doesn’t have the energy to do the things around the house she feels she should be doing. As soon as she opened up, she shut it down. She seemed as though she didn’t want to appear as if she was complaining. Old people don’t want to be a burden. Unfortunately, this situation is all too common with our senior population. It’s just not easy getting old.

As I wrapped up my visit, I sat next to her on the bed. I looked at her and said, “You know, it’s OK to feel depressed about your situation.” She stared at me, a little surprised. “Really?” she asked, softly. I took her hand in mine. “Yes, of course it is. You’ve got some serious health issues. Your kids are stressed. You’re stressed worrying about your kids. You have questions that aren’t being answered by your doctors.  It’s OK to allow yourself to feel sad about it. The feelings you have are real… and normal. Some bad things have happened to you “. Having spent the last year in fairly intense therapy, I knew all too well what it felt like to not have your feelings validated, and did not want this woman feeling that feeling. She broke eye contact and stared across the room, as if watching a movie, off in the distance. “You’re right, I have. And it never goes away… being molested.” Whoa! I could not believe she just said that. I was talking about her current medical condition and her stressful situation with her children, and she is remembering being molested. I just stared at her, wide-eyed, holding her hand. “Have you ever talked to anyone about this?” I asked. She slowly shook her head no. “No one talked about things like that, back then. No one wanted to hear it”. Damn. This woman has been carrying this heavy load around for roughly 70 years and hasn’t told a soul. What made her say it now? And to me? Was it having her feelings validated? Is it possible that this is the first time in this old woman’s life that anyone made her feel like her feelings mattered? Anything’s possible. Without thinking, I spoke from my heart… “I was molested, too. You’re right…it never goes away. But you know what? Talking about it with someone trained in these things makes it softer…easier to carry”. I gestured to my chest, and she nodded. She knew what I meant. That’s where your soul is. That’s where you carry it. The guilt. The shame. The fear. The insecurity. The pain. She knew. And I knew. “What if I arranged for a social worker to come see you? You could talk to her about it, and talk about what’s going on in your life. Maybe it would lighten the load a bit?” I saw a little spark in her eye. “Oh yes, that would be wonderful!” She sighed a sigh of relief, and looked around, like she was anxious for the next step. I gave her a hug and went on to my next patient. I didn’t want to. I wanted to sit with this woman for days, listening. I wanted to send her to my special therapist twice a week, just like I got to do. I wanted to teach her how to journal. I wanted to take her to meditation class. I wanted her to receive Reiki. I wanted to fix her, as I had fixed part of my own soul. I thought all these things as I waved goodbye.

I see sad situations every day. It’s just an unfortunate part of the job. This one, though…it’s sticking with me. It’s filling me with questions. What if I never said anything about her feelings? What if I was never assigned to be her nurse at all? What if she died never releasing any of that shame? No one would ever know. What if I never told my therapist? Would I be 80 years old and still bearing that cross, without realizing why? After the year I just had, I don’t think anything is by chance. This happened for a reason. Not just to help her release her pain, but maybe something bigger. I think maybe me going through the painful journey of processing my pain was so I could be a part of whatever this bigger thing is. Or maybe, this is the bigger thing? It is pretty big, to her… and to me. I suppose time will tell.  You can’t truly realize just how important validation is unless you’ve never had it, and then receive it. That’s how I know. It never really goes away, but it softens…

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