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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, October 2, 2010

Day two babble.

Here's a picture from last week at Ocracoke, just because I like the colors.

I have to come clean. Last night I ate a spoon full of hummus and a couple of pretzels. I was in the kitchen late at night, fixing the kids a snack, and suddenly I just wanted SOMETHING. The cravings kicked in, and the little voice that asks “what the hell are you doing, anyway?” I was able to stop myself before it became an all-out binge, and today I am back on the wagon. I was up a lot last night, I’ll spare the details, but the detoxing has already begun. Today I was slow getting going, but now that I’m up and about I feel really good. I do have to work 12-hour shifts the next three nights in a row, and I’m a little nervous about that. It’s very hard to stay on track at work anyway, which is why so many night shift workers are overweight. Couple that with the sleep deprivation issues, and night shift is a recipe for bad health. Anyway, 12 hours is a long shift, and sometimes we eat just to keep ourselves going. This is going to be a real challenge.

Speaking of sleep, here’s a good article from Mercola that I got in my email yesterday.

Want a good night’s sleep?

Yesterday I managed to finally fill my 7 Earthboxes with soil, and plant some carrots, kale, spinach, collards, fennel, and rutabagas. I know it’s late in the season to be planting fall veggies, but Ruby and the cabbage worms destroyed my first planting. I’m hoping the weather stays mild long enough for me to harvest something by Christmas.

And this is for You, you know who you are.

Within you I lose myself...
Without you I find myself
Wanting to be lost again.
~Author Unknown

Friday, October 1, 2010

Master Cleanse, Day 1.

I love and approve of myself. Other people support and love me. I freely give love and trust.

This is my affirmation for this week.

Without going into all the sordid details, I’ll say that the past few months have been a time of transition and change for me. I have moved my residence yet again, and changed marital status and jobs, and some of my relationships have morphed too. It has been a time of letting go, and also a time of letting new things in. Not only have I neglected my physical health a little bit during this time, but I have not taken the best care of myself emotionally, and there is now a bit of literal and figurative baggage to shed. So, I have decided to do the Master Cleanse for the second time.

I skipped the salt water flush this morning because I slept in and I don’t have two hours to sit around the house waiting for it to work. I will probably do it this evening at bedtime, and then only once or twice more during the next 10 days. I find it almost intolerable. I can drink my tea morning and night instead. Now, I am off to drink my first quart of lemonade and take the kids and dog to the park.

6 pm: I’m really hungry now. But for the time being, I’m ok with it. The next 10 days are not just about detoxing and the health benefits that go along with that, but, as I said back in January when I did this the first time, they are about getting out of my body a little bit, going beyond what the body wants, getting in touch with the spiritual, mental, and emotional, and getting beyond that “baggage” to make a fresh start. There are many, many things I have to look forward to, but the path has become a little blurry, and this 10 day period is about making it clearer. That is how I feel right now, but as I know from experience, an hour from now I may be a raging bitch, and that is part of the process!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Life is a Game.

The alternating nights and days of this rotating Earth, and the alternating sorrows and joys in people's lives, are like a checkerboard in multi-dimensions. The rules of the game are set by Karma, the law of cause and effect. Karma arranges the reunion of friends lost to one another in the dark night of death. Karma withdraws souls back into the astral world again, when their time on earth has expired.

As chess pieces, when "captured," are removed and placed in a box, so Destiny, when removing people from the "board" of life, places them in the secret "closet," or resting place, of the other world.

View life's ups and downs with a serene mind. For outward existence is only a game. View your wins and losses with mental detachment, as you would a movie. After viewing a good drama, even a tragic one, you exclaim, "What a good story! I learned much from it." Similarly, even after experiencing tragic events in your life, tell yourself, "I am grateful for that experience! It taught me much."

Life needs variety to be interesting. If a novel makes us laugh or cry, we appreciate it. Think of life as a good novel, or a good movie. Step back from it a little, mentally.

View it in perspective. If you don't like the plot, remember, the freer you are inside, the greater will be your ability to change it.

Karma rules. But who was it set our karma into motion? We did!

Whatever we did in the past we can undo. All we need now is the right determination, born of our increasing inner freedom.

People enjoy games such as chess, and accept their wins and losses more or less even-mindedly. In the same spirit, let us enjoy life, whether it gives us victory or defeat. Let us live calmly and with a sense of gratitude. In that spirit let us enjoy meeting true friends again - after who knows how many lives? And let us accept with calm faith our parting again at death.

Life is a game. Be interested in it, but remain always nonattached. Let nothing affect you inwardly. However things go, remember, there is nothing real about it. Don't be life a certain person who, exultant after winning a chess game, died of a heart attack!

Even during dark hours of bereavement, and during your body's inexorable descent into old age, keep a joyful attitude. The black squares on a checkerboard alternate with the white. Even so, every darkness in life alternates with light, every sorrow with a joy, every failure with a success.

Change and contrast are inevitable, and are what make the great game possible. View them dispassionately, and never allow them to define who you are, inside.

- Karma and Reincarnation: The Wisdom of Yogananda, Volume 2 (v. 2) by Paramhansa Yogananda

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, April 13, 2010


I found an Urban Rebounder on craigslist for $30! I pick it up on Thursday! I'm really excited, since I've been reading about all the benefits of rebounding:

It increases the capacity for breathing.
It circulates more oxygen the tissues.

It helps combat depression.
It helps normalize your blood pressure.
It helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
It increases the activity of the red bone marrow in the production of red blood cells.
It aids lymphatic circultion, as well as blood flow in the veins of the circulatory system.
It lowers elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
It stimulates the metabolism, thereby reducing the likelihood of obesity.
It tones up the glandular system, especially the thyroid to increase its output.
It improves coordination throughout the body.
It promotes increased muscle fiber tone.
It offers relief from neck and back pains, headaches, and other pain caused by lack of exercise.
It enhances digestion and elimination.
It allows for easier relaxation and sleep.
It results in a better mental performance, with sharper learning processes.
It relieves fatigue and menstrual discomfort for women.
It minimizes the number of colds, allergies, disturbances, and abdominal problems.
It tends to slow down aging.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Eating as an act of love.

Very inspirational video!