Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Return of Compassion

So, I've been going through sort of a rough patch as of late in that I've just dealt with a lot of foolishness without a lot of payoff in the emotional sense. Not that I'm one of those people who needs to be gratified all the time and told that I'm a modern day Florence Nightingale by every patient I discharge for a UTI or whatever. I've just been dealing with high amounts of drama and abusiveness, and since I'm really pretty introverted and sensitive (despite how I act), it really does take a lot out of me. Like, in ways I don't realize until later when everyone and everything is pissing me off and I don't understand why.
It really bothers me when I get this way. I feel like I was made to be a nurse and comfort the sick, like that it is really my God given purpose in life. I feel like if I'm not doing it well- if I don't feel like working hard and I don't feel sincere when I'm being nice to people, that when I'm just pissy that I'm a total failure at the one thing in life that I genuinely care about and think I'm good at. I've felt pretty lost over the last couple of days. Last night was my last of 4 and I pretty much begged to be in fast track to I could just hide and get a break.
So I'm trucking along back there when I go in to start an IV on this lady. First thing she tells me is that she is HIV positive. With full blown AIDs, in fact. I respect this a lot, since lots of people I see don't tell anyone and I find out later when looking through old medical records on the computer. She's hurting, but still bubbly and talkative. She' sweet anyway, but I get on her good side even more by starting her IV on the first stick despite her bad veins and needle anxiety.
Her labs are not pretty. Her body is aching, and she says she's had fevers coming and going. It's obvious her illness is progressing pretty rapidly, but you wouldn't know it by how cheerfully she interacts with her son, who's sitting next to her reading quietly. She's admitted to the hospital for severe anemia, and I find out a little more about her as I take care of her. The events of her life so far have been horrendous to say the least.
After her son goes home, she reveals to me that doctors have given her less than a year to live. Even as she tells me this, she's smiling. "I have so much to be thankful for", she says. "My son is such a good boy. I have a really good man now. I used to be scared but God has granted me peace. It's like I'm his little baby and he's holding me. I know it's gonna be okay." She tells me how kind I've been and how thankful she is for my care. How much she admires everyone that has helped her today. As I talked to her, I started to cry. Not for any reason in particular- it's just that talking to her has instilled somewhat of a calm in me. I felt as if someone had reached into my chest and pulled the weight of all that angst out of me.
It was hard for me to adequately express it to her, but she really saved me. I feel a renewed sense of purpose in what I do.
Just in time for me, too, since after that it was all drunk people in with fireworks accidents. Thanks to my sweet patient, they all had warm blankets and someone to listen attentively to their tales of woe.


  1. Nursing is hard profession at times isn't it? God must have heard you hurting and put that woman in your life to pep you up and show you that all your efforts are not in vain! Head up! We all ride that wave you're on many times in our career!

  2. Having been a care provider since I started babysitting at eleven, I am familiar with the cycle of love it : hate it that this profession brings to its dedicated ones. Sounds like you are doing a fab job at comforting and working on your patients just the way you are supposed to. Regain your confidence and be who you are meant to be.

  3. Its nice when someone thanks us for our hard work, i am lucky where i work the old folks that live in our area are usually kind souls, keep up the good work flo! ps the word thingy was gouchro!!

  4. You are me, I think. Get out of my head...

    These are exactly my thoughts with nursing right now. Seriously though, good on you for maintaining the compassion.

    word verification: aphiator. The Future Robotic Destroyer of Crops.

  5. Thanks guys. I feel as if I've been coming across as kind of hateful lately. I really have to remind myself of people like this to stay positive, but it really helps to know that this is not a unique experience. Getting up inside my own head makes it even worse sometimes.
    @shrtstormtrooper. Yeah. I'm pretty sure you're my internet twin.

  6. i´m in love with your blog:) greetings from a fellow nurse from norway- renate

  7. Every once in a while in the midst of a whole lot of BS you get that one patient who reminds you why it is you torture yourself with this life. It can restore a lot of faith in human kind when you find one.
    Great post.

  8. Usually a pt like that comes along just when I'm about to sob from frustration and say fuckitol. Just when I'm thinking, "If ONE MORE person spits on me...."

  9. Ok...after reading your post I may/may not have gotten something in my eye...

  10. Great post. I got a bit teary-eyed myself reading it.

  11. Compared to her those drunks and pill heads that wallow in their own misery seem like nothing.

  12. It's hard for me to adequately express, too. Especially after two months inpatient, fighting the battle with little chance to win, and each of us giving it our all.

    But every once in awhile, I'm in the right place at the right time to express. And it reminds me just what the hell nursing is all about. And the burnout fades, for awhile.

    Thanks for the reminder we all can use.