Nurses: Embrace The Beauty In What You Do & Never Doubt The Gifts You Bring

FOR A NURSE

Your mind knows the world of illness, the fright that invades a person

arriving in and out of the world, distraught and grieved by illness.

how it can strip a life of its joy, dim the light of the heart

put shock in the eyes.

You see worlds breaking at the onset of illness: families at bedsides distraught 

that their mothers name has come up in the secret lottery of misfortune

that had always chosen someone else.

you watch their helpless love that would exchange places with her.

The veil of skin opened, the search through the bodys night

to remove tissue, war-torn with cancer.

Young lives that should be out in the sun enjoying life with wild hearts,

come in here lamed by accident and the lucky ones who leave,

already old and in captive posture.

The elderly, who should be prepared, but are frightened and unsure.

you understand no one can learn beforehand and elegant or easy way to die.

In this fragile frontier-place, your kindness becomes a light that consoles the brokenhearted,

awakens within desperate storms that oasis of serenity that calls

the spirit to rise from beneath the weight of pain, to create a new space in the persons mind

where they gain distance from their suffering and begin to see the invitation 

to integrate and transform it.

May you embrace the beauty in what you do and how you stand like a secret angel

between the bleak despair of illness and the unquenchable light of spirit

that can turn the darkest destiny toward dawn.

May you never doubt the gifts you bring rather, learn from these frontiers

wisdom for your own heart may you come to inherit the blessings of your kindness

and never be without care and love when winter enters you own life.

by John O'Donohue

The “S” Word We Never Talk About In Nursing

No, not the 4-letter word. We talk about that too much; It’s the 5 letter word: SHAME. As a profession predominantly made up of women who care for people professionally and personally, we want people to like us. Sometimes in order to sustain that positive image, we keep our shameful secrets hidden from those that might judge us.

Personal issues such as divorce, children failing school or family suicide can trigger shame when we can’t sustain the image we attempt to create. Narcotic access has created some issues for Nurses. I have worked with at least three Nurses who have lost their nursing license (at least temporarily) for stealing drugs and/or using during work hours. I’ve known other Nurses who have lost their license from driving under the influence of alcohol.

Brene Brown has done a tremendous amount of research studying shame. One of the most important things she has said is that “vulnerability is NOT weakness”. Think back to a time when you had a difficult conversation and were vulnerable, perhaps in a romantic or personal relationship. It takes a lot of courage to drop our guard, be exposed, let go of control and be open to not knowing what comes next. That is not weakness. We have a choice, we can chose silence and go down the self harm route of depression, anxiety, and addiction or we can open up and talk about it so it loses its powerful hold over us.

If you or someone you know is going through a difficult experience, find someone who creates safety to be comfortable to share the experience with. If you are the listener, be just that – a listener. Notice the judgments come up and let them go so that you can bring empathy to help the healing process. For more about  Brene Brown, check out her Ted talk on vulnerability.

Nurse with Mullet Stars in Eclampsia Drill

Nurses are inundated with change, yet we need to be competent and maintain skills to optimize patient lives. We've all tried creating shortcuts to Healthstream, until they built questions into the lesson or prevent fast forwarding. Healthstream is fine for the standard JCAHO competencies but drills provide hands on learning in an active setting for real scenarios like Stroke, MI or Code Blue. Experience, competency and drills allowed Sully to land a plane safely on the Hudson River and these coworkers are ready to manage a eclamptic seizure during their shift.

Nurse Sarah E displays her best seizure performance causing the nurses to jump into action. While we create a safe learning environment, we are all business and look for recognition of symptoms, SBAR communication, closed loop communication and we make sure someone is attending to the boyfriend in the mullet, played by Sarah B. 

The Nurses that showed up for this drill were superstars that I have worked together on nights for years. While they know each other well enough that they could read each other's minds, they functioned so efficiently, that if Sarah E really seized, she was in good hands. Nurses that feel intimidated have the opportunity to ask questions, get their hands on equipment and feel confident in their next emergency. What drill can you create with coworkers at your job?

Nurses Sarah E and Sarah B without a fake belly or a mullet.

Nurses Sarah E and Sarah B without a fake belly or a mullet.

My Father’s Happy Death

I buried my father yesterday.  Tears wet my cheeks as the sailor handed the folded flag to my mother for his service on the USS Midway as the bugle call Taps played. Two weeks ago, my mom and I had a long conversation on the phone. I was 3,000 miles away wondering how much more time my dad had to live. My mom spent 57 years with my dad.  She exemplified so much courage these last few months as she saw reality for what it was. She told me, “I just wish for him a happy death”.

If only we all could have the strength to look death in the face and befriend it, rather than fight death at all costs. Our culture supports our denial of death. All four of my siblings were challenged by my father’s illness over the last three years and we all served different roles. I am humbled by their love and dedication to my father. Geography created barriers for me but I flew home about 4-5 times a year to provide relief to my two siblings who sacrificed the most to support my father.

If there is one thing that is certain in life, it is death yet the circumstances are full of uncertainties. Where will we be, who will be with us, when will it happen, why, what the cause of death is, what state will the body be in are all things that vary from situation to situation. Death flirted with my father many times during his career in the fire department, particularly when a roof collapsed on him. Two years ago he survived a four-month hospitalization with sepsis and had a very strong will to live.

My dad and I many years ago

My dad and I many years ago

Living in California, two weeks into a new job and having traveled to Nepal last month, I had resigned myself to the idea that I would likely not be with my dad at the end. I arranged to visit for a long weekend to help my family out in caring for him. I had no idea my long weekend would turn into his last three days of life. While it was heartbreaking to see his thin body, his rapid, labored breathing, and hear his rattling cough; I knew this was a sacred time. I was honored to witness his friend, Monsignor Dooley administer last rites. I strategically under medicated my dad so that he would be alert enough to be aware of the sacrament. Compromising his physical comfort in exchange for his spiritual comfort was one of the best things I did that weekend. I could feel a shift as he was absolved of all sin as my brothers, my mom and I heard him tell Fr. Dooley that he was the greatest priest.

A few hours later when I went to reposition him in bed, he took his last breath. On that exhale, my mom got her wish of a happy death for my father. He died peacefully at home in his bedroom, surrounded by loved ones. No more pain, no more suffering for him but I am left with the uncertainties of a broken heart. Just as he turned toward death, I am turning toward my broken heart and meeting it with a lot of love and compassion.