Janice - A Nurse Forever
It bothers me when people ask, "What did you do when you were still a nurse?" In my opinion once you become a nurse, you're a nurse forever … until the day you die.
It takes a lot of giving to be a nurse. Most people could not do the kinds of things that nurses do unless they really cared for others. We deal with the most awful kinds of situations and the worst physically circumstances that can happen to people. We do it because we care and there's nobody else who can stomach it.
My career has actually included very little bedside nursing. I’ve provided patient education, nursing education and clinical work. In the last couple of years I have found that the people providing bedside care don’t seem to be as attuned to the basic kind of care that I remember learning as a beginning nursing student. There's so much more documentation demanded from nurses these days. Some things have become easier because of computers, but on the other hand, so much more is demanded. It’s partly because hospitals are trying to shield themselves from anything that could go wrong. Our litigious society makes it hard for people to care and to give in a way that is totally unconditional because they have to worry about consequences.
I’m concerned about the quality of care in the future as our population ages. A lot of RN's just are not doing the kind of care in nursing homes that we need, I think it's a financial problem.
“by giving up the white uniform and cap, we’ve given up some of our symbolism that helps to identify us and empower us.” Nursing homes are hiring aides at lower costs, but they’ve had just a few months of education. Their preparation cannot match that of an RN going in and doing a head-to-toe evaluation of a patient. I'm a little worried about all 75 million of us baby boomers who are going to need end-of-life care in the next 20 years. How will we provide care for this many people with any kind of real quality? I sometimes joke that every family should raise one or two nurses, for their own self-interest!
Recently, I went back to nursing school for my 35th class reunion. The planners staged a “fashion show”. We saw nursing uniforms dating back in the 1890's through the present time. It was fun, but it also made think. I’m not saying we should wear caps again or even nylons, but by giving up the white uniform and cap, we’ve given up some of our symbolism that helps to identify us and empower us. Now patients sometimes say, "I don't know how to tell a nurse from an aide because everybody wears scrubs.”
Although it’s been many years since I’ve worked in a hospital setting, I can still remember the most difficult situation I ever had to face. I was working in the ICU and a woman came in who had suffered a botched abortion. She actually had to go into isolation because she was highly infected. You’d walk in the room and the odor was just awful. I would go in and she would say, “I don't know how you can stand to come in here, because I can barely stand to be in this room with myself." But she and I were not very far apart in age, and somehow we just connected psychologically. Ultimately, though, she ended up dying from the abortion. That made a huge impression on me. I just felt so awful at how she suffered.
On the other end of the spectrum, I had an extremely uplifting experience working with a mother who suffered from postpartum depression. When her second child was born, she was able to get effective treatment and did not have to suffer like she did the first time. She was able to go home and care for her two boys, and was just a healthy and wonderful person.
Those two very different patient outcomes really underscore how nursing can affect your psyche and your emotions. Anyone going into the profession should have good friends who will love and support them, whether those friends are nurses themselves or not. They should be involved with some sort of a support network, so that they don't feel like they're out there working by themselves. It’s important to have somebody to connect with.
Power Strategies: Connection, intimacy, Compassion
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