Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Give Me Your Eyes

I just finished reading a really good book.  It was given to me by one of the doctors who I work for at the office and it's called Intensive Care: The Story of a Nurse by Echo Heron.  It's an autobiography of a nurse who worked for years in the emergency department and acute coronary care and intermediate coronary care units. The ICCU unit Heron describes seems similar to the unit that I now work on.  

There is a part in the book where one of Heron's close friends from nursing school has made a career switch and the two discuss what nursing has meant to them.  In essence, Heron's friend tells her that nursing isn't worth it because there is so little respect or recognition for what a nurse does.  She goes on to say that Heron is mistaken if she thinks that at the end of her career she will receive any sort of special recognition and that what she can expect is to be given a "one-liner in the hospital newspaper" and never be heard of again.  Heron's response is that the people she has taken care of will remember her.  

It's true, anybody who is not in the healthcare profession and working the 'front lines' has very little knowledge of the daily life of a nurse.  I think that it is one of the most misunderstood professions.  Many people's views of nurses come from their exposure to the doctor's office nurse.  This means that all they see their nurse do is take their blood pressure, maybe take a blood sample, and tell them why they are at the doctor.  I am not knocking this aspect of nursing, it is absolutely necessary and from working in this atmosphere I know that it requires an incredible amount of patience and ability to think quickly from patient to patient.  There is so much that happens behind the scene's that the patient's do not see their nurse do such as coordinating patient care and answering a multitude of questions and phone calls.  

However, a floor nurse does so much more.  We are the eyes and ears and hands of the doctor, who may only see the patient for 10 minutes each day.  Without the nurse, there would be no hospital.  We spend more time with our patients than anybody else and know them better than anybody else, including their doctor.  We can tell when their condition is deteriorating and most often are the ones suggesting medications or treatments.  We hold their hands the day that they get a diagnosis of cancer or are told that their heart's are no longer functioning in a way that will allow them to live the life they lived before.  We listen to them as they deal with past regrets and face their mortality.  We help them to adjust to a time period in which they have lost all control over their daily routine.  We take care of them when they are used to taking care of themselves.  We explain in English what the doctors just told them in a language that they couldn't understand.  We are their confidants.  It is amazing what a person will tell a nurse, whether it be in the hospital or on the train.

Lately I have heard very few "pleases" and "thank you's" but more "do this" and "do that."  I've waited for patients to finish the phone call that they decided to make while I was in the room that instead of lasting 2 minutes goes on for 15 minutes while I am standing there, pleasantly waiting to give them the sleeping pill that they requested and that I took the time to ask the doctor to order and faithfully brought to them, while I have a list of 20 other things in my head that I need to accomplish.  I find my patience for my patient's running thin more frequently than I used to.  

Song of the day = Give Me Your Eyes, by Brandon Heath

I don't feel burnt out, but I'm starting to feel the wear and tear of nursing on my body and spirit.  It's a constant state of being on edge, waiting for anything and everything to happen.  I also feel like a number of the people in my social circle just don't understand what I do.  I listen to them talk about their jobs all of the time but rarely get asked about mine.  One person had the audacity to say, "well, you just do what the doctor tells you to do..."  So. Wrong.  The song of the day is 'Give Me Your Eyes' because I'm asking God to give me His eyes and His heart when dealing with my patients.  Whether they say please and thank you are inconsequential and God brought me to them to care for them.  Does God get a 'thank you' every time he does something for me or you?  Nope.  So, really, why do I deserve that?  I think that I really need to remember that I'm not doing what I do for a thank you, I'm doing it to bring compassion, trust and care to the people that I come in contact with.

I think that the whole world would be a better place if everyone tried to see the world through God's eyes.  We would see the pain that we cause other's with our words and actions.  We would lend a helping hand to those that are struggling.  We would remember what love means and what it means to truly listen to someone and care about them.  

Well, that's where my heart is at today.  
I work the next three nights, so I'll catch ya on the flip side.

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