Wednesday, January 04, 2012


"My career destroyed my marriage, and it will destroy you." -Experienced nurse manager

Is anyone else afraid their career will destroy all relationships/change you into a completely different person who has no compassion? No?  That's just me?  Oh weird.

Overall people have a really positive view of nurses.  They're so kind and sympathetic and giving... Angels of mercy.

Well, that's the general view.  Here's what I've learned in my four months of real nursing.

People get jaded.  I've met a lot of nurses who are tired of dealing with angry people. Healthcare is an interesting situation because people act like a hospital is like McDonald's.  I am in pain, so I expect you to completely fix all of my pain. Part of this is cultural because Americans demand all things immediately.  But dealing with human beings is not like making a hamburger, sometimes we cannot fix you.  Sometimes you have to live with pain/discomfort.  However, this is not common sense and people can get angry when they feel their needs are not being met.  And sometimes we see people who come in for pain, but they actually need mental/spiritual healing and not physical.  They react with anger when I tell them I am giving them nonopioid pain relief.

I find that the situations that exhaust me the most are not when I am doing compressions, but when I am dealing with angry people who want me to fix them, but I cannot.  I want to address what I think their real problems are, but I'm only a nurse and not a psychologist.  So we keep up this vicious cycle of people complaining of physical pain and requesting narcotics to cover their emotional pain/drug habit.  I wish I could talk to them about what brought them to this point.

My heart hurts for these people.  I feel used by them. I am tired of being a conduit to put a bandaid over a huge problem that cannot be fixed by drugs.  I want them to know that I can see they have been through a lot.  I know they have a lot of hurt and that they have seen terrible things.  I want them to know that covering up this problem won't solve it and that Jesus really loves them and wants to free them from their pain.

So sometimes I'm afraid I will take all of this confusion and frustration and become bitter.  I think when I stop caring about people I need to change jobs.  When I feel anxious about becoming calloused, I am reminded of Melba.  She worked in community health for years and that field has its own challenges, but all fall back into the root of trying to cover up a large problem with a bandaid.  I know Melba has worked with difficult patients and yet she is the most joyful person I know.  I realized that Jesus makes the difference when it comes to being jaded.  Melba has more to offer to people because she does not rely on her own compassion,  instead she relies on Jesus' compassion, which never ceases.

I told God I was growing frustrated with not being able to really help my patients and I was reminded that this is kind of what God goes through with us...  He knows all of our problems and the areas we struggle with.  He wants to help, but so often we ignore Him.  He deals with a stubborn people, but His compassion never ceases.  God fill me with this compassion!

So that's one problem.  The other one is that all  of the wise nurses that have gone before (and really love to say "I've been a nurse longer than you've been alive."  It's seriously like the coolest thing ever to say.  I think I may say it next time someone asks me, hm...)  caution us to find something mystical called "work-life balance".  And apparently if you don't figure this out YOUR CAREER WILL DESTROY YOU.  Alright, you have sufficiently scared the crap out of me.

So I feel like a failure.  I really love my job (yes, even with my frustration about not being able to fix patients) and I love my coworkers.  But on my days off I kind of resemble a slug.  I don't do anything other than a trip to a coffee shop to journal about my job.  Yeah, I think I may not have that whole balance thing.  Now obviously I'm still a newbie and therefore need more focus on my job, but I really don't want to only live for my days at work.  I'm getting more involved at church, but for some reason I feel like if I don't start working out and find a hobby I will fail at this work-life balance thing. And if I don't succeed at that I may end up becoming a mass murderer/something equally terrible?

I tend to be pretty legalistic and I like having rules and lists so I can quantify my life.  But I also feel  like I need to give myself a lil grace when it comes to figuring out what it looks like to be an adult.

I think in general I should be satisfied with baby steps.  And hopefully next year I will be able to say cool things like "Oh yes, I will be going on a cruise with Julie, Marge and Cass" or "Yes, I am going to India for a few weeks", but right now please don't expect me to say such things.  I would like to be honest with you about the fact that my major goal right now is actually working up enough courage to go to the Y by myself.