I didn’t learn this in nursing school: I’m about to have a meltdown but I know I shoudn’t….
I remember taking care of my first patient who had just received some bad news, this patient had only a week or so to live. I remember sitting outside the door and just trying so hard not to cry. This patient was so young and wasn’t even retired yet. This could have been my parent laying there. I tried to remember what I learned in nursing school about caring for patients in their last days and all I could remember was the five stages of grief. Do I pretent I didn’t hear the news and just walk in and do my job (assess, give meds, etc) then leave? Remember this was my FIRST patient ever to receive this bad news, I had no idea how I was going to react, but I knew I was a mess inside and had a job to do. The doctor happened to open the door and there I was standing right there, I quickly wiped the tears away, cleared my throat and walked in. My patient welcomed me with a smile (always did) and I could not believe they still had a smile after the devastating news. I decided to get out of my comfort zone and told them I just overhead his news and I was so sorry for all they were going through. They smiled again and nodded their face. I asked if there was something I could do in that moment, they said they wanted to be with their family but understood I had to do my job which required family to wait in the waiting room while I hang meds, etc. I decided just to stop what I was doing and have the family come back and told them to call me when they were done then I would hang the meds. I knew there was a chance of me getting in trouble for not getting the doctors finished at the scheduled time but I was ok with the punishment but if I was told I only have a few days to live, I would want my family by my side. That was almost three years ago and I still remember that day like it was yesterday, I still struggle with patients getting bad news because I wanted to go into medical field to help people get better, take care of them and send them home. But unfortunately that is the reality we live in. When I switched my career from inpatient to emergency, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I found myself going from drinking one glass of wine every once in a while to three glasses a week or daily, and I have only been in the ER less than a year, so imagine for people that have been here for a while and are using alcohol to cope with the stress that comes with the job. That is why it is so important to find something to help with stresss relief, if its working out, reading ,you need to find something before you ruin your life or become an alcoholic. Most importantly, we as nurses need to be kind and welcoming to new nurses, especially the ones right out of nursing school, you were in their shoes at some point, lets be honest you learned what you know because someone took their time and patience and taught you how to. Do not be the nurse criticizing someone because they do not how to do things, be the nurse teaching that person how to be good at whatever skills they are lacking. Keep an eye on your coworkers that might be struggling with dealing with work stress or others factors, and help them seek appropriate care. Together when can make healthcare a better place but taking care of us first. Last but not least, be thankful for the health you have, be thankful you do not have a chronic illness like diabetes or high blood pressure for example because these two illnesses are just a disaster waiting to happen if not appropriately managed. Be thankful you and your loved one are not the ones getting the bad news, being thankful more often will make you realize how blessed you and be more appreciative of what you have and keep you humbled.
Till next time,