I was in a job interview earlier this week, and the person who was interviewing me (a fellow nurse, with many years in the field as well as in education) was telling me that she remembered her very first patient….her very first “code blue”….her very first patient death. Some things stay with you, even if they are from 40+ years ago.
Every nurse, everyone in health care, has patients that touch their hearts and memories, for some reason. Patients who influence us, in our thought processes, in our quality of care, in our attention and desires to do things differently for them. They may have survived or not, but they have left an indelible mark on our souls, our heads, our hearts, as well as on our dedication to the profession.
Sometimes, it is a losing battle. Sometimes we know it, sometimes we don’t. But the best we can do is, the best we can do. And whether someone survives or not is out of our realm a lot of the time. Awareness of that fact, and acceptance of it, is essential to our jobs and to our sanity.
So why be a nurse? When you lose half of your patients, despite your best efforts, and yet, there is never a shortage of people, patients, those with poor lifestyle choices, those with bad luck, those with bad karma, those who are old, who are young, who are shockingly like YOU? Because even when the actual outcome is out of our hands, the treatment of these people is well within them. And when I am taking care of a patient, I know that they are getting the BEST care possible for that 12 hours. If I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t still be doing this.
“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
Old Emily Dickinson had it right…..that’s what this job is all about