Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

Humility’s not a bad thing.

 I thought I had reached that point — become cynical…and it was time to consider getting some distance between myself and hands-on nursing care. When you are feeling hopeless about the changes in healthcare and what a machine it has become, you become more vulnerable to the affliction of cynicism. Despite giving the best care I could, I’d lately been meeting lots of patients that treated me like they were doing me a favor by having surgery.

Then this happened:

Three months ago, a fall resulted in a spinal cord injury to her. She had no feeling from the waist down and little strength in her shoulders. Her left-hand lay limp and her right hand slightly contorted. What followed was two surgeries to stabilize her damaged back in addition to physical and occupational therapy five times a week to gain use her right hand. A complete remodification of her home to accommodate her minivan sized electric wheelchair became a medical necessity. She wore a Depends because the level of her cord injury destroyed all bladder control.  

She’s sixty-one, a time when most are starting to feel the aches and pains of age creeping in, not having almost all capacity taken from them.

I had two days’ notice that her husband would be bringing her in for stoma surgery.

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They together took control of the atmosphere once I met them in the waiting room. Each greeted me with a smile and direct eye contact. Down the hallway to the pre-op area, they exchanged a few comments and joked with me about how much ‘road space’ the electric chair took. There was a calmness about them. They were not stoic. They had their hearts right out there on their sleeves.

In the bay set up for her, a stretcher lined the far wall.

“You both tell me what works best for her. I would like to help, but I also want to respect what is most comfortable for you.” I waited for their response.

Her husband, a good foot taller than me, moved swiftly in front of his wife so he was now facing her said, “We’re good. We got this.”

As he leaned forward, he placed her arms over his shoulders and wrapped his arms around her waist. To a non-medical person, it looked like an affectionate bear hug, and this beautiful couple, that’s how they treated it.

I was standing close enough to get to see it; absolute adoration between them. The wink he gave her. He held and moved her as if he was picking up and transferring the Hope Diamond.

She now sat on the stretcher. Hands on the bed and wrists bent back to promote her balance,

 I clumsily wiggled the steer gear and moved the heavy wheelchair out of the way.

“Are you able to balance yourself sitting without back support?”

She gave me a reassuring look.

 “Susan, just a little support from you and the three of us will get me up higher in bed before you swing me legs around onto the bed.”

I assisted with getting her into a surgical gown then, seeing the Anesthesiologist coming to interview her, stepped back.

His timing was perfect because I was becoming washed with emotion. Stepping into a hallway passthrough, I gulped back a rising urge to cry. At the same moment, our business manager, a woman keen on noticing subtle changes among us slowed as she approached me.

“Susan, what’s wrong?”

I cried and laughed at the same time. “Nothing’s wrong, everything’s okay. I’m gonna be okay.”

She cocked her head and looked at me quizzically.

“I’m just so humbled by the patient I just met.”

I went on to explain this: I have and will always believe that if you no longer have an emotional reaction to the remarkable people you will meet, it’s time to leave.

The exchange with that patient, it was a gift.

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What was I thinking

I sat, with the screen behind me – the one sometimes used for people that sign in remote for the meeting; the Nursing Programs coordinator on my right.

” Our upcoming December meeting will be short, bring your units End of Year summaries. The rest is more of a holiday lunch for all of us. Then in January Susan will be the group Chair and in charge.”

I looked around the room at critical care, ER, and floor nurses who juggled five to six patients at once for twelve hour days.

Co-chair. Co-chair. Please mention the needed co-chair.

“We will be voting for a Co-chair.”

Whew! I’ll have a sidekick.

I’ve always referred to Pre / Phase II post op nursing as a boutique job. Yes, there are moments of run run run, hurry and wait, and patients with blood sugars of over 400 that make you go ” Insulin order please, right now !” However, on the average, we’re like that Park Avenue shop with an edited assortment of cute clothes for people size 6 to 10 and coordinated accessories. You get what I mean. The critical care and floor nurses have a wider breadth of work responsibilities and unplanned events during their day.

So…

It’s humbling, for me, to be a part of this group.

My understanding of Imposter Syndrome has increased tenfold with the transition of responsibility looming right around the corner.

I avoided eye contact with anyone, not wanting to reveal just how intense my anxiety was.

We’ll see how this goes.

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Word tags – Gratitude and Humility

I was angry about my doctor putting me on more medication. Then I clocked in and  met a guy angry  he didn’t have any legs.

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Father may I…

I reflect on it now and I hope he didn’t find me to be impudent, but hey, when was I going to have this opportunity again?

What’s your favorite book?

What’s your favorite verse?

Emboldened with fast responses, I pushed further.

Who’s your favorite disciple?

“Paul”

Why?

“After he came to know the Lord, he had a sense of humility unparalleled to any other disciple.”

I shut up, finished getting him ready, and brought his family back to wait with him

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