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Monday, March 3, 2014

Thoughts on being a nurse after 20 years.

I’ll tell you the truth; I haven’t always liked my profession.  I quit college to get married in the ‘80s, and then I had a child soon thereafter. If I hadn’t made those choices at such a young age, I probably would have ended up doing something else. But in my early 20’s, I found myself divorced with a toddler. I had so little imagination, I thought I was looking forward to a life of either blue-collar work or poverty. I had three choices…go on welfare and become a statistic, find a back-breaking factory job that would pay the bills (which would have eventually been outsourced anyway), or take some classes at the local community college that would help me give my son a middle-class (ie. “better”) life.  I couldn’t picture myself doing either #1 or #2, so I went to nursing school.

In the early days, I defined myself by what I did for a living. I was young and I thought that “ER nurse” was the coolest answer I could give to the question, “what do you do?”  I collected initials behind my name and prided myself on being the fastest, smartest, most efficient and skillful ER nurse that I could be. When tragedy struck, such as the drowning of two little boys, brothers, in an unsupervised pool with an unlocked gate, or when the sole survivor in a car crash that claimed the lives of seven people was a four-year-old girl asking, “Where’s my mommy and daddy?”, I distanced myself emotionally from the human aspect of the job. I believe that to cry would show weakness, and furthermore, if I let these things bother me, how could I function? Besides, I was more focused on living the life of a young, cute, self-destructive ER nurse, just like on TV. Partying with my ER buddies on my nights off, chasing cute guys, making up for all the fun I thought I had missed out on because I married young.  I thought any young woman would love to have my life, because it was anything but boring. But I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing.

After just a few years, I found my life in ruins. (Another blog post for another time). My father had just died too, the person that I most wanted to make proud.  I left nursing for a little while, and a shift happened (again, another blog post, or several, for another time). I returned to nursing, but I never returned to the ER.  I was not the same young woman. I was beginning to know myself, and hitting rock bottom had humbled me enough that I had a new empathy for my fellow human being. I came back with a renewed sense of purpose. I wanted to make a difference.

Since then, there have been times that I’ve wanted to leave the profession. Sometimes “doing my job” involves carrying out orders that I know are not in the best interests of my patient, even though they are perfectly acceptable from the perspective of medical practice standards. In these times, I have felt like I am just a cog in the wheel of the big, bad machine. That is not what I want to be. I want to make a difference, remember?  At other times, I connect with a patient on such a deep level that I feel that fate must have put me there in that place, at that time. These are the times when I have felt that I have a gift to bring to my patients.

When I am titrating the Pitocin, interpreting the fetal monitor strip, or handing the doctor an amnihook, I am not doing anything special for my patient.  In fact, sometimes I do those things against my better judgment because it is my job.  If I weren’t doing those things, some other nurse would be there doing them. It’s the things I do that aren’t really in my job description that I feel are my greatest contributions to the nursing profession.

tired nurse

I am currently on a travel assignment, and I’ve been having a hard time with homesickness and questioning my motivation for doing this assignment, as well as whether I want to keep nursing at the bedside when it’s over. Last week, I had a patient that really touched me and gave me a reason to keep going.  My interaction with her was the catalyst for this blog post. She was (is) an immigrant from one of the lesser-known African nations, having come to the United States sixteen years ago to escape the misogynistic control of the society there. She came to the U.S. at the age of 23, met a nice man, got married, became a Jehovah’s Witness, and eventually had a son, who is now four years old.

Because of her spirituality, she refused blood products and an MRI to rule out the suspected placental accreta, which earned her the unofficial label of “difficult patient.”  Due to these and other risk factors, she had undergone a cesarean despite the fact that her baby had died in utero. She had nicknamed her baby Jack-Jack, and his loss was devastating, especially since her age (nearly 40) and her medical issues made having another baby nearly an impossibility.

Her husband left her in the evening to go home and care for their young son, leaving her alone. It was one of those uncommon nights where I actually had some free time, which was good because she called me into her room and told me she needed me to sit with her. She said she needed a woman to talk to. I’m glad she was specific. I’m good at meeting my patients’ physical needs, but I’m not always good at reading the emotional needs of a person that I just met, despite how hard I try.  I ended up spending a total of about four hours sitting and talking with her that night.

She talked about her faith. She told me the story of having been raped by an uncle in Africa and becoming pregnant at the age of 14.  Despite the trauma, she wanted to keep her baby. Her family took her to the doctor for what they told her was prenatal care, and they gave her something they told her was a vitamin.  It was a sedative, and when she woke up, she had undergone an abortion against her will.

She told me about the traumatic birth of her other son four years ago, here at this very hospital, and the extended hospital stay afterward, and how because of it and her experience in Africa, she held a lot of mistrust and bitterness toward the health care system. She told me how the doctors, residents, and nurses at her first hospital stay treated her like she was stupid and wouldn’t listen to her spiritual and physical concerns. She told me that she hadn’t believed them this time when they told her that her baby was dead, that she had demanded a second opinion, and that she had been rude and hard to deal with.

We talked about Jack-Jack’s soul. She said she knew that the baby she knew that moved and kicked in her belly was still alive somewhere, but not here. Still, she wanted to say goodbye to his little body one last time, even though she had held it for hours that afternoon when it was still warm. She said she knew it was irrational, but would I please go get him for her?

I went down to the specimen refrigerator, where the body was awaiting transport to the morgue, and retrieved her baby’s cold, refrigerated body. I unwrapped it from the plastic bag that contained it, and redressed it in baby boy clothes and a handmade blanket. I placed Jack-Jack’s body in a bassinet and brought it back to her. We both cried.

What I did was probably against the rules. I don’t really know. And it certainly wasn’t in my job description. Any nurse would have assessed her incision and given her pain medication, but not every nurse would have given her the emotional support she needed that night. Not because I’m a special nurse, but because I just happened to have the time that night, and we just happened to connect on a deeper level. We connected not just as patient and nurse that night, but as women, and as mothers.
She thanked me for the “girl talk”, as she called it. She thanked me for bringing her baby’s body back to her. She thanked me for helping her get through the first night without him. But most importantly, she thanked me for restoring her faith and trust in the medical profession. Despite all that, I’m sure  she helped me more than I helped her.

I’m not the same lost, overachieving young nurse that I was twenty years ago.  I have heard it said, as the healer heals others, she also heals herself.  I don’t know about being a healer, but I’m certain that those patients whose lives I’ve touched the most profoundly have played the biggest part in my own soul healing.  There are times when I’m so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs that I don’t take care of myself, but I’ve learned to cut myself some slack. Nursing is a hard job, and I’m sure I’m not the only nurse who has ever questioned my career choice.  We are at times overworked, underappreciated, and stretched thin. There is something to be said for accepting and even appreciating the consequences of the choices you have made. That is what I want for my fellow nurses. Despite the challenges, I want you to see the potential you have for touching people’s lives, cut yourself some slack, break down the walls that you think are protecting you from being hurt, and be human. And I want you to love yourself for it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hello again.

How do you pick up where you left off when you've neglected your blog for almost 6 months? Life got crazy for a while with a job change, a long commute, then another move back to where I came from. Someone asked me recently, "when are you going to start writing in your blog again?" This is a feeble attempt at doing just that, and hopefully it will get me over the hump.

I moved back into a house I own that has a lot of shade and compact, grassless soil, and I decided that I'm going to start an urban homesteading project. Over the course of the next three years, I want to slowly build a mini-farm and see just how much of my family's food I can produce in my own yard. The long term plans include chickens for eggs (new to me) and bees (something I have some experience with). I want to show what an average person, with a less-than-green thumb, can do in an average neighborhood to be self-sufficient and provide her family with fresh, organic food, while still being employed full-time and not having to spend hours a day in the garden. I've started out by building two 4x8 raised beds in the backyard and trying to get some fall veggies going. I've planted one of those beds with cabbage, broccoli, and collards, and the other bed I plan to do a "lasagna garden" with, layering it with what I have on hand right now and letting it compost over the winter so it will be ready for the spring. I also have seven Earthboxes (five "real" ones, and two homemade ones) that I will keep on the deck. There's a small fenced-in area right outside my bedroom door that will allow me to start small while keeping my dirt-loving dog from digging in my new beds. Here's what it looked like upon my return to the house...

Ugly, huh?
I think I can do quite a bit with this small space, and then after next summer I will have to expand to the rest of the yard.

I picked up a copy of the book The Backyard Homestead and it's packed with good information. I will probably be referring to it a lot.

I plan on doing a lot of composting because my soil is poor and it is so expensive to buy the stuff from the store in such large quantities. The worms are still thriving in their Rubbermaid bin in the laundry room, but I would like to expand my "worm farm" to provide me with a greater amount of castings to further enrich my poor soil. Plus, worms can make composting go so much faster. So I need to figure out a way to have a larger worm bin outdoors, with good drainage, preferably some way of catching the "worm tea" that runs off, and enough insulation to keep the worms from freezing in the winter and cooking in the summer. (I live in Zone 7).

I have some pictures of the new beds and fall plants that I plan on getting up in the next few days.

And I plan on attempting the Master Cleanse again at the end of this month.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vegan for a week.

My new Facebook friend, Rebecca Whitlock, went vegan for a week and wrote a very thought-provoking blog about her experience. Check it out!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Healthy relationships.

Today, Americans lead overly isolated lives, spending large amounts watching television, listening to iPods and surfing the internet. You can eat all the broccoli and brown rice in the world, but if you feel isolated and lonely, you are not going to be living life at full capacity.

During the course of a lifetime, we have relationships with parents, grandparents, children, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, extended family, friends, teachers, coworkers-the list is endless. The quality of these relationships explains a lot about the quality of a person's life and his or her health.

Just as no one diet is right for everyone, no one way of relating works for everyone. So cultivate relationships that are healthy and supportive to you. Start to notice what relationships truly feed you in your life and which relationships drain your energy.

Try this Exercise:

Gratitude List
List 5 people in your life who totally support you. Next to each name write one reason that you are thankful for them. If one person on your list is someone you haven't talked to in awhile, call them up and invite them out for lunch or tea. Start making time for the people who give you energy and give less time to the people who drain your energy.

"Take the first step in faith."

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have done NO blogging since I finished the Master Cleanse almost two months ago. The bad news is, I am still struggling with getting "enough" raw foods into my diet. The good news is, I have maintained my 10 lb. weight loss, and am now working out at the YMCA 4-5 times a week. I am feeling stronger and more energetic than I have in a while. I'm feeling some muscles developing under this flab. :-)

I am really enjoying my yoga classes, and am doing that twice a week or so. I get some weight training and occasional Pilates in there too. My favorite thing right now, however, is Zumba. Zumba is a latin-dance inspired aerobic workout, which is more like a dance party than any aerobic class I've ever been to. The same women come every week, and the class is the most popular one at the Y. I have ordered some instructional DVD's because once a week is just not enough. Despite still being 50 pounds overweight, I am inspired and seriously thinking about taking a Zumba workshop in May and becoming a certified Zumba instructor. I don't really have room for that in my career path, but I would love to teach the occasional beginner class back in my hometown where there is no Zumba class within a 50 mile radius. Plus, it's just something that I would love to achieve for my own sense of accomplishment.

I have also made some decisions regarding my career. I have been a registered nurse for 15 years, having done labor and delivery for the past 7. A long time ago, I wanted to be a midwife. But the laws in this state regarding the practice of midwifery, along with being very jaded by working in a healthcare system that I believe disempowers people and keeps them sick, has made me question that path. For the past several years, my job has just been a way to pay the bills, and nothing more. I have felt like a cog in the big, bad machine, and it has been sucking me dry. I have come to realize that my own path to health and wellness relies not only nutrition and exercise, but having a sense of purpose, and living my values. I can't just talk the talk anymore, it's time to walk the walk. So, I've decided to start working on my Holistic Nurse board certification, and see what happens from there. There's a non-profit natural health center in my hometown that I'm interested in getting involved with, and I have already thrown a
line into the water there. I have also started this Ning network as a sort of "project" to work on in the meantime. I also have a Facebook page, so if you're on Facebook, look me up there too. I hope y'all will join me, I really need to get some discussion going over there!

I want to empower people to take responsibility for their own wellness in a holistic sense, and stop relying on pills, and become empowered and educated about what they are doing to their bodies every day. This is something that I feel strongly about, and may just be the life's purpose I have been looking for.

So, even though I haven't written, since I did the Master Cleanse and started concentrating more on raw foods, my body and mind have started to transform, and I'm excited about what the future has in store for me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My day so far.

I drank a quart of water when I got up, then went to a very challenging yoga class at the YMCA. Now I'm going to make myself a nice green smoothie! Today is my day off, so I plan on taking the dog to the beach (which is always good for my soul...she is just the picture of joy when she is running around out there!), and maybe doing some thrift store shopping. Later this afternoon, back to the Y for Zumba! If you have a Zumba class in your area and you haven't tried it, you're missing out on a lot of fun!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Optimum health and stress reduction through yoga.

On the physical level, yoga and its cleansing properties have proven to be very effective for various disorders. Listed below are just some of the benefits of yoga:

  1. Yoga increases flexibility and has postures that trigger different joints in the body. Including joints that are not normally used with regular exercise routines.
  2. Yoga increases the lubrication of joints, ligaments and tendons, and exercises the different tendons and ligaments of the body. The body starting out rigid, may experience remarkable flexibility after starting yoga.
  3. Yoga is perhaps the only exercise that can work on internal organs, including those that don't get stimulated through external methods.
  4. Yoga acts on the various body parts, stimulating and massaging the organs and benefits us by keeping away disease. It also provides forewarning of the first onset of disease or disorder. One of the benefits of yoga is the increased sense of awareness that it develops in the practitioner of impending health disorders or infection. This enables the person to take proactive corrective action.
  5. Yoga offers detoxification of the body by gently stretching the muscles and joints. This helps by flushing toxins from the body and providing nourishment. The benefits of such are delayed aging and increased energy.
  6. Yoga is also an excellent way to tone and strengthen muscles which are weak and stimulates the burning of excess fats.
Yoga harmonizes the mind with the body and has enabled people to achieve extraordinary physical feats, proving the mind and body connection. Yoga and meditation, both working together to achieve unity of mind, body and spirit. This they say can lead to an experience of eternal bliss that one can only feel through yoga.

The meditative practices of yoga help to achieve an emotional balance which leads to calmness and a positive outlook, which benefits the physical health of the body through stress reduction.

Larry has a website that educates people on Premium Yoga Mats. He has been studying Yoga and Martial Arts for the past 20+ years. You can visit his site at: http://www.premiumyogamats.org.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Larry_L_Clark