"When you get those rare moments of clarity, those flashes when the universe makes sense, you try desperately to hold on to them. They are the life boats for the darker times, when the vastness of it all, the incomprehensible nature of life is completely illusive. So the question becomes, or should have been all a long... What would you do if you knew you only had one day, or one week, or one month to live. What life boat would you grab on to? What secret would you tell? What band would you see? What person would you declare your love to? What wish would you fulfill? What exotic locale would you fly to for coffee? What book would you write?"
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The Forbidden Nursing Word
So that's the universal unwritten rule in nursing. But why is that? Doesn't that just add to our job dissatisfaction? Are we not allowed to bask in the joy of having a slow moment when not all of your patients are going ballistic? Why are we one of the few professions where we are not allowed to say "its so quiet. I'm going to enjoy this moment." Nurses believe in karmic balance, we believe in jinxes, we believe in full moons. At least on my unit. We all know that if that word is said, we can expect things to start picking up. In a bad way.
We believe in jinxes. Way too heavily. A couple of weeks ago, I was bragging profusely to a coworker that despite working on this job for nearly 6 years, I had never been assaulted. Kicked, punched, hit, bitten, scratched. Nothing. What happens 4 hours later? I got punched. Big time. By a patient. If that's not enough to make you think twice about the jinx phenomenon- Get this: We had a quiet night last night- not much going on. We were all walking on ice- afraid to say that word, but were finally happy to be able to take a little bit of a deep breath. Then- Out of the blue- 2am- we get a code blue. One of our patients stopped breathing. We of course call out all the stops and whatnot, run the code. The patient ended up not making it. After the code, during the time I was sitting down with the resident having him sign the papers, he told me- "I think this is my fault." I asked him, what do you mean? He said back, "Earlier this shift I was bragging to the other residents I've never had to pronounce any of my patients dead yet."
After he said that, I wanted to punch him in the face. Why would someone ever bring that karmic invite on?...
Lately the unit has been......insane. I have never particularly enjoyed psychiatric patients, and in the past two weeks I've been punched by a psych patient, and taken 4 knives away from another. Both under my direct supervision. And besides those incidents, its just been a run for our money in every way. A true test of patience, strength, passion and endurance.
I've discovered something about myself in all of this though, a new defense mechanism I didn't even really know I had in me. On the unit, there have been moments where everything is coming at you at once, you are having the worst possible night, no one can help you because everyone else is having a bad night too (in addition to your hospital being severely understaffed), and you face a decision: You lose it and throw a complete temper tantrum on the floor/ run out of the hospital screaming, or you find SOME way to keep yourself together. Not just together, but you have to be able to put on a smile and keep calm entirely in front of your patients and not let them see you're having a bad night in any way. Its definitely not easy.
So my new defense mechanism is something new. In order to prevent my inner psyche from going completely nuts, I went into what I see as an emotional shutdown. I went through the motions. I did what I had to do. I said only what needed to be said. I remained calm. I thought things through. I did my job. But I wasn't emotionally there...I couldn't be. Its like my brain and body were still working but my mind and soul weren't.
On my particular unit, we can't really take breaks. There are only two nurses on staff at all times and leaving the floor is not allowed. So my break consists of eating a sandwich at the nurses station. Also, being that there are times we are severely understaffed and have no aide, if a call light or problem arises while you are sitting and eating your sandwich- you must go attend to this. So really, you don't get a "true break". There have been night shifts where I couldn't even find the 4 minutes it took to pee until about 5 am. That's why nurses have extraordinary bladders. They expand :-)
But all this has definitely made me re-think whether or not I chose the right career. Its gotten me pretty low in the dumps, and its brought on a lot of thought. Lets start with the good- I am incredibly thankful for where I have gone in life. Meaning- I love having the medical knowledge database in my head. I love figuring out the mysteries, I love diagnosing people, I love applying medical knowledge, I love explaining things to laypeople, I love knowing more than the residents (hehe). I love the fact that when I have kids, I will know how to help them medically. I love that If I'm first responder to any accident as a drivebyer- I can apply basic medical attention. I can respond to emergencies on airplanes. I want to learn more and more and more about the medical field and apply it all. Its like a giant equation, a giant puzzle- and I want to collect all the pieces.
I keep revolving back to the fact that I should have just followed my heart. My true heart. I just, once again, didn't have enough confidence in myself to believe I could succeed. I should have gotten a job that allowed me to exercise my creative artistic side at work. With Pixar. Or with a graphic design company. As a Writer. As a music-video design artist. As a movie-maker. ANY other job on this planet that could let me make art every day......that....would be my ultimate key to happiness. Sure I can make art on the side now. But in my time off- when I'm exhausted. When my mind is absolutely reeling from the shift I just had.
I think I'm mad at myself for just feeling this jaded after only five months of nursing. I wouldn't say that I am burned out, but the fire is lit and it shouldn't be. Not this early. I have to fix things. I'm tired of holding it all together. I'm tired of pretending to be strong.