Thursday, February 15, 2007

A time to laugh, a time to cry, and a time to get your butt in gear and get your job done....

A while ago, I came across a great blog entry by one of my favourite nurse bloggers where she reminisced about her training to be a nurse, more specifically, the three H’s in nursing; Head, Heart, Hands.

I’ve thought about this entry a lot ever since I read it. I mull it over in my head a lot during my clinical practice, as I try to establish my balance of: “knowing enough, caring enough, and doing enough.”

I’ve always considered one of my good qualities to be my empathy for people, which is one of my main reasons for wanting to be involved in health care – so I can HELP people. But, I have also learned that too much empathy can be a hindrance as well. I’ve always known that I am an emotional person – I know there are certain movies I refuse to go in public to see, cuz I know I will bawl like a baby all the way through it; and yes, I have even gotten teary eyed during a commercial! But until you are placed in an environment where you see that being overly empathetic/sympathetic affects your work, you don’t realize the possible negative effects that are resulting…

For example, I suppose I could accomplish a lot more in a day if I didn’t stop every 30 seconds to ask my patient, “are you ok”, “I’m not hurting you am I”, “are you warm enough”, “cool enough”, or when giving an elderly patient a tub bath, I suppose it would go a lot faster if I wasn’t constantly checking the temperature of the water to make sure it is still warm enough, or ensuring my patient is draped in towels on their upper half of their body while I am washing their lower half of their body – I suppose if I just picked up the pace and got the job done, my patient would only be cold for a brief moment. Still, the thought of even a moment of discomfort for my patient compels me to do these little things. Thankfully this hasn’t held me up yet in my routine, and I am still able to get everything accomplished in my set time frame, while still having time left over to help the staff out, but in a real live setting when it is my job to “do it all”, I could see it becoming a problem.

My other issue I am dealing with is the great difficulty I am having in caring for elderly male patients. I did go through this briefly last year, but I am really struggling with it this year. Every male elderly patient is reminding me of my father, and knowing that he is the age of the people I am caring for, and this could be him any day. Perhaps it is guilt…I am just so busy with work and school, trying to better my life, that time is ticking away from me, stealing those moments away from me that I should be spending with my family. They only live approx 5 hours away, but when working full-time and attending University, those 5 hours may as well be a 5 hour flight away. But it is just another one of those things that I need to overcome. As soon as I walk into the patients’ room, I choke back the tears, take a few deep breaths, and try to focus on why I am there. I have learned that I need to keep busy and distracted, cuz any lull in tasks and I am short of breath and blinded by tears. Yet I have absolutely no trouble with the female elderly patients (so far) – I seem to establish a great rapport with them, am totally comfortable with them, and do my best to bring some sort of momentary joy in my brief time with them.

I already know that I need to get toughened up, cuz if I can't handle seeing suffering of old age, there is no way I can handle what the future of nursing holds, and I acknowledge that this is something I have to work on every day. One thing I am dreading in my medical experience is dealing with my first patient death. All I can hope for at this point is that I can gradually learn to emotionally grow in this area, taking baby steps in "toughening up" before I get thrown to the wolves in the bigger and more serious cases.

FYI: Today my dad turned 74...

UPDATE: February 18. 2007:

I discovered a new blog today that I have subscribed to, and ironically there is an interesting entry along this same line, but from a different perspective.

Which reminds me, since I am plugging so many blogs today, I must throw in babycatcher. This blog has brought tears to my eyes on numerous occasions (surprise, surprise!). When I first stumbled across it, I spent hours reading it from the beginning, but after awhile I had to stop reading it as I realized it was starting to make me depressed and feeling guilty for my comfortable lifestyle. I still like to refer back to it once in awhile for a wake-up call. It is about a nurse/midwife helping out in Malawi. Very eye-opening! One entry in particular was especially moving for me: "...I cried for the emptiness of her arms and for the other women at Bottom who arrive with expectations and large bellies, and return home with a small bundle to place in the ground." Heart-breaking...

2 comments:

Markie said...

Jennifer,

Thank you for your insights and thoughts. I'll be returning to see what new things you've brought up.

I encourage you to keep working on your life balance, and get more comfortable with the male patients. I know when I first started as a CNA I was very depressed thinking my parents could end up in a facility like the one I did my clinicals in; and it was suppsed to be a **good** one!

that big girl said...

another nursing student here, enjoying your blog...

I don't have clinicals this semester (nice!), but I have been noticing a lot of sadness when I see men that remind me of my dad. He died suddenly about six years ago, and boy, oh boy is it hard when I see men who look like him or act like him or even who look like the same age as he was when he died. I also get really angry at them (poor guys!) for being alive when my dad isn't!

but what I thought of when I read this entry, was that it might be appropriate, if someone notices you're teary, or if you feel it's okay, to say "you remind me a lot of dad." i forget sometimes that even though my facial expressions often say more than I want them to, people have no idea what I'm really thinking unless I 'use my words'.

with love, k.

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