I’m Lovin’ It!

So… I must admit that nursing has managed to tear me away from my blogging for the past… few months. Working 18 hour days at Jesus Camp over the summer only to fall into a 56 hour work week with school/clinical/paid-work, plus the extra time studying and sleeping and trying to lose weight… Well, I don’t really need to say more, do I?

Except this: As much as I have cried, screamed, shook my head, kicked imaginary teachers in the head, complained, over-slept and under-ate… last Wednesday during my rotation on the pre and post op surgical floor at the Main Hospital in the city reminded me the only way the Universe knew how – about how much I really love nursing, and how much nursing means to me.

The evening shift started out just as well: I was frustrated and angry at myself for mistaking our meeting time from 2:00 pm instead of 2:30pm. After a recent stint with poor marks (Some As, mostly Bs and Cs – but if the teachers knew how to teach this would be a different story) and a re-occurance of my depression and subsequent side effects of the lovely perscription drugs, this semester hadn’t gone the way I wanted it to go in order to apply for a Masters Degree as a Nurse Practitioner. During the elevator ride down to the meeting room for pre-conference, I kept repeating in my head the famous line from Margaret Atwoods The Handmaid’s TaleNolite te bastardes cardorumborum, which in Latin (FYI: I did not translate this/write it! Please don’t be mad at me Latin majors!) translates to Don’t let the bastards grind you down. But after 3 years of this bullshit, it’s hard not to give up or at the very least wonder if this was right for me. I couldn’t help but think that being Corporate’s trophy wife wouldn’t be so bad – until I rediscovered just how bad daytime TV is. Either way, I was already past the point of no return so I trekked my way on the floor in my teal blue scrubs with a pencil firmly lodged in my pony tail, ready to tackle the day.

I had the same 3 patients from the evening before: 2 really lovely ladies and 1 gentleman who was more concerned with his PCA than the human care he was receiving. Anyways – my patients were stable and my charting was good; my wound care was sterile and my meds were on time… so I had a moment to observe and assist a wound packing that an RN was performing in the end room of the floor.

Before entering the room my amazing clinical instructor, let’s call her Ariel, informed me that the floor nurses had complimented me through her: that they said I was “so calm, cool and collected. She’s great! She should work here!!”, and after receiving similiar praise from other floor nurses, that brought a smile – braces and all – to my face. I have had awful days on the floor – most that I could write off as terrible side effects from my medication – but either way they as well as the ridiculous lack of empathy experienced from our teachers, had brought me down and made me forget and even wonder why the hell I was putting myself through this grindhouse of torture.

But back to my story. I asked the nurse if it was ok if I were to observe the wound packing and after she said yes, I entered the patients room, said hello, and asked if it was ok if I were to observe the wound packing. I introduced another student who entered the room… and by the time the nurse was ready there were 5 of us in total around the patient, who I would place at no older than 20. She had a very deep – 3 cm – incision at her hip running towards her pelvic area. She had to be exposed for the change, and we tried to make her as comfortable as possible. She was friendly, responsive, and kind. The RN stood to her left and I was to her immediate right.

The packing of this wound was difficult – not the technique, but the actual procedure itself. In lab we practice on dummies – lifeless objects that feels nothing like a human being. In school they teach us the technique; the method, the theory behind the practice, why and how to do what we as nurses do. But what they don’t teach us is how to manage the patient throughout the experience, which for this poor, brave girl, was excruciatingly painful. As we watched the removal of the staples, the patient began to grimace, and then clench, and finally cry – softly at first, but when the pain became too much, her cries became verbal… almost helpless.

The other students reminded her to breathe, to relax; that she was doing well, that she was almost done. I simply put on a glove (her IV was close to her hand and was MRSA un-known) and told her to squeeze my hand if she needed to. She held on to my fingers until I had to assist with the packing – and immediately after I gave her my hand back to hold until the procedure was complete. I squeezed back: I rubbed her arm… I told her she was doing so well, and that she would be done soon. The patient nodded as she squeezed and breathed… and 15 minutes later it was all over.

I know that not every patient will accept a hand to hold during procedures such as the one above – so every time I get a patient who does (although it happens to me often) I feel honoured. That human connection – the power of silence and touch – along with the abstract knowledge and practical skills IS why I entered into this program. To make a difference. To be able to do the little things for patients… for people. To show that I care, even when I’m tired and hungry and ground-down from the bullshit that is the administration of a nursing school.

I went home late that night and spoke with Corporate about my experience… and a smile came to my face, much like it is now. It’s the kind of experience that makes me close my eyes and sigh as I nod my head to say “Yes Carrie: this IS right for you”. And it is – no matter what those nursing dinosaurs try to throw at me.

Nolite te bastardes cardorumborum: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

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~ by Carrie on November 9, 2007.

16 Responses to “I’m Lovin’ It!”

  1. Carrie that is so amazing!

    One of the most vivid memories I have from after my reduction surgery is of the nurse who sat with me while I sobbed in recovery. They couldn’t give me anything for the pain until after I was completely out of the anesthetic and it hurt. It hurt a LOT.

    The sweetest nurse sat with me and held my had. I bawled like a baby – she smelled like cinnamon and had red hair.

    People like her and people like you are the most important part of getting well!

  2. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

  3. The human touch is as important as any meds you can give a patient. When I was hospitalized 2 years ago (almost 2 years ago) for my depression, the thing I remember most are the nurses (not all of them) who would come into my room and talk to me … about me, about my life, about depression. They would empathise with me and it really warmed me deep inside. The positive attitude they had with me rubbed off and motivated me to work hard at getting better.

    On the opposite side of the coin are the doctors who will give you a diagnosis with a cold, reserved attitude, akin to … this is what you have, deal with it. I have heard of oncologists doing that and walking out. Way too clinical, way too cold.

  4. im sure that’s a wickedly awesome thing to feel like you are in the spot you want to be professionally. that’s great, and what a great story (um, after i got over the shock of that gruesome picture!).

  5. I agree. It’s great to be validated when you’ve been doubting yourself.

  6. With so many people out there who still don’t know WHAT they want to do it is awesome to hear of someone who loves their profession.

  7. @ Bre ~ Aw thanks Bre! it’s nice to hear that people remember those little things that nurses can do.

    @ George ~ I know that not all nurses have that touch, but I think it’s SO important that it should be taught, or at least brought up in our curriculum. Don’t get me wrong, theory is all well and good, but it’s the human connection that really establishes us and differentiates nurses from all other health professions.

  8. @ brookem ~ hey girl!! I apologize for the extra-description. It’s a good thing I didn’t describe my visit to the OR and what the surgeon let me do!

    @ Valerie ~ Thank you; it was a long time coming, but validation comes when you need it most.

    @ a life uncommon ~ Thanks! With nursing you REALLY have to be passionate about it, or else you won’t enjoy it. I guess that explains the high drop out rate and the impending massive nursing shortage.

  9. I know how important your job is and I think that this story you told us proves how great you are at it. Being a nurse is hard (not that I’d know but I can only imagine) and it takes a special someone to be able to do the job well and with compassion. It seems that you’ve got of those qualities! If ever I need to be in a hospital for something or other, I hope you’re my nurse!

  10. I am new to you blog but I have to say I loved this post – as a patient with so much time logged in hospitals as well as aa author on women’s health issues I applaud you in your choice of career and know you will make an incredible nurse. The way you held her hand was so beautiful – it’s what we patients need more than anything.

  11. @ Airam ~ Nursing is hard; but it is also extraordinarily rewarding when I get patients like that, and others, who have appreciated the little things I can offer on top of what’s written on the care plan.

    @ Princess Extraordinaire ~ Hi! Thank you for reading. And thank you for letting me and other nurses know that the little things we do, or want to do but are unable to because of time, mean the world to our patients. It’s patients like you who make me realize that there is nothing in this world better than caring for someone until they can care for themselves.

  12. I’m glad to hear that you are doing well as a nurse. Having had my open heart surgery, I can honestly confess how wonderful nurses are!!!!!

  13. You did just the right thing and will undoubtedly make a fabulous nurse.

  14. @ Michael C ~ I’ll be a nurse soon enough, but as a student it’s stlll nice to hear that I’m doing well from patients!

    @ Carla ~ Thank you!!

  15. You know what? Being a trophy whatever, isnt all that bad. I mean, sure there are probably days where you’ll have nothing to do and the beautiful people in Soap Opera Land will be your only company, but what about shopping and lunching? Then you could probably be a volunteer at an art gallery or even a hospital as a candy striper (you gotta admit, those little red and white outfits are totally hot!) to help pass the time or even be a member on a board. I’m just saying, dont throw away such a beautiful dream. If I could, I would totally fly over to Canada to pat your hand, make a human connection and say, “Dont say, ‘NO’ so easily.”

  16. @ David ~ A haha… well it’s always a great plan B, I can’t fault that, but then again there is always the risk of being traded in for a newer model. At least as a nurse there is such shortages aroun the world they can’t afford to trade up for a prettier version.

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