I have been a nurse for a little over a year and I hardly ever mention my work life in detail, or any of my patients due to HIPAA privacy and the fact that anyone who is not a nurse would probably never truly understand. But today, I worked with a patient who was blind, deaf, non-verbal, paraplegic, and mentally retarded. I struggled at first, since his required medical care was not the most comfortable and I had no way to reassure him. But during the course of the day, it got a little bit easier as he was able to recognize the repetitive patterns and become less resistant. With the sun shining on us and piano music playing lightly in the background, we were able to communicate and I was able to appreciate the experience in a way that I have not yet experienced before in my lifetime.
Another patient of mine was a young wife and mother of two who had come to the ER due to abdominal pain and nausea for a couple of days, probably expecting a stomach virus or some sort of infection. The CT showed that it was actually cancer that had spread throughout almost her entire body, and her whole life was changed forever. What really touched me was that even her ex-husband who she had not spoken to in years, showed up to check on her and support her, and it really put things into perspective, seeing all that love and human connection and the reminder of the shortness of life.
Yet another patient was homeless and had relapsed on alcohol and crack cocaine after fighting hard to remain 40 days clean. Upon his arrival to the hospital, his priorities were food, clean water to shower, and the remote to the television. He was supposed to remain NPO (have nothing to eat or drink by mouth) for breakfast so he could have an abdominal ultrasound, but he was so hungry he ate anyways, and then thought I was mad at him for not listening to me. I couldn’t even stay mad; I simply chuckled to myself and explained to him that he will now have to skip lunch, but if he had waited until after the ultrasound, he wouldn’t have had to skip any meals!
I had various other patients that day, such as my youngest patient who went for a simple procedure and ended up in the ICU fighting for her life, but such are the day to day events of life in a busy urban hospital. The daily interaction with doctors, specialists, surgeons, PAs and NPs, secretaries, coworkers on your home unit and throughout the hospital, and various departments such as respiratory, behavioral health, social work, nutrition, dietary, physical therapy, occupational and speech therapy, other departments (radiology, CT, echo, vascular, surgery, PACU, etc.) outside facilities (nursing homes, hospice, skilled nursing facilities, rehab centers, etc.), and with not only patients but each of their family members, friends and loved ones, nursing keeps you on your toes for 13 straight hours with barely a chance to catch your breath. Each moment is a challenge but every day is a reward. My one year as a registered nurse on a critical oncology, hospice, and medical surgical unit is an experience that I would never be able to describe in words, but what I do know is that every day I come to work is a new learning experience that opens my mind and touches my heart and life will be never be the same as before I entered this world of life as a nurse.