Patient Blessings

I love my job.

I work in a very small rural emergency room/inpatient facility, on the tiny island of Grand Manan.The only way on or off of the island is a ferry that leaves 4 times/day, or a medical evacuation aircraft. As a staff, we really do face a multitude of challenges that those in larger hospitals will never understand or appreciate. When we are in a crisis, we have no one to call on but our tiny staff. In a larger facility, when a 'code blue' (cardiac/respiratory arrest) occurs, staff would "call the code" and "page respiratory, x-ray, etc." Well, we don't have that option. The nurses and doctors of our staff literally ARE everything. We are the code team. Whether there are 4 of us on in the day time, or 2 on at night.  We also have to deal with transferring patients out by airplane to the 'mainland' to a larger facility. To make things a little crazier, we are in such a small community, that the person we are working on, we likely know, go to church with, or are related to.

After saying all that, some might think that my job is stressful and not enjoyable at all. On the contrary, really. I find my job to be a challenge, and seriously, we don't get into a 'crisis' as often as I once thought. When I first started, fresh out of university, I had a tonne of anxiety over being 'in charge' at such a young age. My orientation was a short 8 weeks and of course, I faced almost no challenges during that time. As soon as my orientation was over, my LPN partner and I are sitting at the nurses station at 7 AM, waiting for the day staff to arrive, when in walks a 'classic' heart attack. Needless to say, I was scared out of my mind, BUT, while getting the things I needed to start my IV, I gave myself a little pep talk, telling myself to calm down, that I could do this. Well, I got that IV first try, and thats all I needed. Everything went so smooth after that, and I seriously needed that to start my career. Sounds sort of morbid, I know, but it gave me the confidence I needed.

I've been working at this hospital for a little over 2 years now, and as every nurse says about their job, I learn something new every single day. Its true, whether I mean to or not, I learn something. I have learned to stretch my physical, emotional, and mental capacities to where I thought I could never have gone. I learned to trust those I work with, and I have to say, our hospital staff really is the best. We might gripe and complain about each other (it happens when a group of women work so closely), but I KNOW that when push comes to shove, these ladies have my back. Our staff of RNs and LPNs are so amazing. They have taught me so much, and I just hope I have taught them something in return. We have faced so much together: the good, bad and downright ugly. I have 2 LPN partners that share my full time rotation, and I have to say, these women are two of the most amazing, intelligent, compassionate women I know (and I'm not just saying that, because I'm pretty sure neither of them read my blog).

Sometimes, work gets frustrating, because we feel like we have turned into a nursing home, full of patients waiting for a bed to open up for them. I'm sure this is true of many facilities around North America. When I feel frustrated with this, I need to remind myself that I have come into contact with some really amazing patients because of the 'nursing home bed shortage.' When you work with the elderly, you are working with them at a very scary time of their lives. It's a transitional period, if you will. It is a time when they are losing so much of their independence, that it sometimes causes them to give up hope, when all the joy seems to be gone from their lives. I hope that I can bring a smile to their faces and make them laugh while I'm with them. Heaven knows they can bring one to mine. You know you've had a great day when you and your patient laugh so hard together that you can barely breathe, and your ribs ache for the rest of the day.

Unfortunately, when working with the sick and the elderly, you also have to work closely with what we call 'end of life care.' In nursing school, I thought that this aspect of nursing was only for a select few, and it certainly wasn't for me. I was terrified to have my first patient die on my watch. But, something that I have learned is that this 'end of life care' is a sort of gift we can give to our patient's and their families. If we can provide comfort for a patient and their family during this sensitive time, it really is a gift. Never have I been so blessed as I have been working with a dying patient and their family. They appreciate every little thing you do, and even though it is a sad and scary time, it gives me a certain pride in what we, as nurses, do. I was so surprised with myself when I learned that 'end of life care' was not so scary after all.

I started this blog post today, to tell the story of what happened with a patient I was working with last night. He is an elderly gentleman, and was extremely excited to be heading out of the hospital to go to a baptism in the morning. I was having a little chat about it with him, all the while, I was rubbing my pregnant belly. This man is so enthusiastic about the Lord, and he just loves to share about it. Anyway, after a few minutes, he stopped and looked at me and asked me if something was troubling me, since I was rubbing my belly. I said no, that I am just rubbing my little baby. He bowed his head and teared up. He said to me, "there is no greater blessing in this world than a child. That is just wonderful news to hear!" I said thank you, and told him it was a girl. He replied, "It doesn't matter, boy or girl, soon you will know the deepest love for another human being that you can possibly have. I will pray for you and your little girl every night." I don't really know this man very well, but he really blessed me. Later, I learned that he had lost a little girl of his own many years ago, in an accident. Wow.

Anyway, for any nurses that are reading this, take pride in your jobs. You are in such an amazing position to change the lives of the people you work with. The way that we talk to people, the things we say, really can have a huge impact on these people for the rest of their lives, no matter how long that will be. I am guilty of forgetting this, at times, when I am frustrated with my job, my patients, or my own life. I would do well to remind myself of this every day.

Grand Manan Island Map

Sunrise After a Long Nightshift