September 1, 2014

Sometimes it is Hard

Happy Labor Day!
Labor day is defined by Wikipedia (which I will admit is the furthest thing from bible...) "is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country."

I will be celebrating by continuing my pursuits of personal wealth. ;-)
Which is code for: I don't have a choice. I am a nurse.
Also prepare for the longest post in the world...

I have blogged about being a nurse many times before, describing the loveliest of patients and the most tender of moments spent with them in their last hours. But I want to tell you about the other days – the days spent with the worst side of people, and the violent of situations we encounter. I want to tell you about the shifts when you get to your car after a long day, and all you can do is cry or sit there emotionally drained. I want to tell you why we sometimes have a tendency to lash out at the first person who annoys us when we get home as we walk in the door exhausted.
We are nurses because we love people. We are nurses because we have compassion. We are nurses because we want to help others to either maintain their health or return to good health. We are nurses because we believe no one should die uncomfortably or alone. We are nurses because we do not like to see people suffer. We are nurses because we want nothing more than to hold your hand, or the hands of your loved ones, as you make a necessary, but difficult decision. We chose this profession because we want to make sure people die with dignity and without pain, and if we can facilitate having your loved ones hold your hand while you pass, that’s a good day for us. Each of us has hundreds of stories. We never forget out patients.

Many of us have personal experiences on the other side of the veil. Many know what it is like to watch someone you love suffer. Many of us have health issues of our own and see a physician regularly. Many nurses I work with have gifted myself and others with the graciousness of their service in a branch of the military. Some of those nurses have come back home without their friends because they were killed in the war. Some have buried their family members and returned a few days later to work. And all of us have sore muscles after a shift.

We really do love our patients. Often, we love their families as well. We know them for long periods of time, sometimes months or years. Trust is established. Friendships are formed. We are happy when they do well. We are sad when they die. We call or text on our days off to check on them. We can’t help it. We’re nurses. That’s just what we do.

And for all of these reasons, when we experience the opposite of this experience...words escape me.

I have had a gang member physically charge at me. I have had a criminal call me names I wouldn't call my worst enemy. I have tried to break up fights between patients and their family members. I have had people pull out lines in anger or confusion that will lead to them bleeding to death. I have had many people lie to me. I have had patients threaten my life. That is scary. I have a family that I want to make it home to every night

I have been told that I have no compassion (because I was unable to share results of labs that I truly did not know the results to.) I have been scratched, kicked, punched, slapped, spit on, poop thrown at me (by a family member actually, not a patient), hair pulled, boob pulled, and the like. Not daily but almost, but verbal abuse...that is part of my everyday. (I do work in an environment that probably has a slightly higher incidence of this though, to be clear...)

It gets worse.

I had one patient whom died after he made the conscious choice to go hospice and have care withdrawn. His family came in and called me a murderer.  I have also had people threaten to sue. I have dealt with seeing abuse inflicted on others as well. Read here for my story dealing with an abused child.

We listen to the DEMANDS of family members who INSIST we turn their 500 pound loved one hourly, which takes every nurse on the floor, and we often wonder, who turned them when they were at home?? We stand there while we are accused of causing those multiple stage 4 bed sores, the same ones we had documented when they arrived on the floor from their home.
We listen to family members speak horribly about our colleagues, which is like messing with our family.

We know that some of our patients are going to die. We would just PREFER to not do CPR. I don't like knowing that I might have to jump on my patient's chest, break all of their ribs, and then call the family back in to see them when it is much too late to hold their hand. We’re nurses. We’re compassionate. We don’t LIKE to do that.  Also, I don't often wear a ring to work because if I have to do a code I don't want to cut my hand viciously like I have in the past..
But if you want to be full code terminally, that is absolutely your right patient. Just remember I am here to be your advocate. But sometimes it is hard to do what is asked of me as stated above. But ultimately it is about you.

After all of this, sometimes all we can do is come home and shower and crawl into bed. We are physically and emotionally SPENT……

We’re compassionate, all of us. We all love people, and we love helping people return to good health. We also love food, if you ever want to bring some! :-)

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