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Nurses have the best job

April 8, 2013

Usually I love my job. I love the science, I love the puzzle, I love the interaction between doctors and patients. Sometimes I contemplate the possibility of going to jail, being fired and losing my license because it’s too hard and I just can’t get anywhere or do anything that seems to help anyone.

I am a surgical nurse, meaning I work on a surgical floor. This is the place you come to after recovery from the operating room or before you go to the operating room. I care for patients who have had all manner of surgeries including orthopedic, urologic, vascular, bariatric and every other kind of surgery you can think of. I love it. Truly. The body is amazing.

Did you know that you make urine, or pee-pee if you want me to speak more plainly, because your brain tells your lungs to make a chemical that signals your kidneys to excrete or conserve fluid? Nuts, I say, nutty.

Recently I had the pleasure of caring for a very elderly patient with dementia who had broken a bone. She is at baseline (more of that RN speak…meaning, she is normally confused and does not speak, act or participate in a manner that constitutes a normal train of thought) and she perseveres, is difficult to console and forgets almost immediately whatever it is that you have told her. It’s a terrible disease process and frustrating for both the possessor of dementia and the people caring for that person. Sometimes it’s funny. I don’t mean that person is laughable but sometimes the disease process makes people think in funny ways that make you laugh and would make them laugh if they were able still to put it all together.

My patient was very thirsty and I was spoon-feeding her some ice and pudding, I brushed her hair, gave her  a massage of her hands, arms, shoulders and legs in an attempt to calm her down after her transfer from a more critical floor to our floor. It worked. She smiled and told me with glowing eyes that I was so pretty and that she loved me. She was a beautiful lovely woman who has lived a long life that I knew nothing about but I get to be in that moment, this moment with her and for that I am grateful. I am grateful that my interventions and attention ease her mind and body and appreciate her kind words expressed in love and compliments even though I know she has no idea who I am or what the hell she is doing in the hospital. In fact, she kept forgetting she was even in the hospital even though her body was aching painfully in ways she couldn’t put together.

Later I had to help her and in that help it caused her great pain but it was inevitable. She was, ahem, pretty mad. She yelled “you’re bad, you’re bad, you’re bad…” over and over. She said over and over again, “if you had children you wouldn’t do this, you’re bad, you’re bad, you’re bad…” Yikes. She was so upset. I tried distraction. I tried comforting. I brushed her cheek gently, I smoothed her hair and smiled at her. I sat down and held her hand and reminded her just before she had told me I was pretty and she loved me.

In a complete moment of clarity she stopped yelling and persevering and looked at me and said, evenly, clearly and with confidence, “Well, I was wrong about that.”

I love my job. I feel so lucky to connect with people on this level. I feel powerless at times and that is supremely frustrating but sometimes, rarely but with startling clarity I am present with someone and I am thankful for that moment.

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