Once in awhile nurses switch roles and become patients. I am no stranger to this role reversal. I have had minor surgeries, meningitis and even broke my back, after a truck hit me while riding my bicycle. This is small stuff compared to my friend Regina, who has been a patient since 2007. We worked together in the ICU at UCSF in 2003. It was at this time when she was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. After treatment, Regina kept the cancer in check. She continued to work for four years and then was thrown another curveball when she had a stroke in 2007.
Her life is hard, although you will not hear her complain. The tPA (treatment for her stroke) destroyed the right parietal lobe of her brain in a bleed. She lost use of her left side and life in a nursing home dangled in her future. That is not Regina’s style. With the support of family and friends, rehabilitation, treatment and her fighting spirit, she is able to live with family and walk with a cane. In addition to pain medication and a baclofen pump, her back spasms are treated with Botox injections to her left neck all the way to left calf. Her Ovarian Cancer was in remission for seven years, until four years ago she was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer. Unfortunately the chemo makes her stroke symptoms worse and she is challenged with significant pain.
Regina was a Registered Nurse for ten years prior to working as a Nurse Practitioner for seven years. With great reluctance, after a stubborn fight with herself, she finally listened to her fatigued body and was forced to give up nursing. She was a crackerjack nurse and now she is an award-winning artist, published in the Lilly Cancer Canvas book. You can follow her art on her Facebook page, My Stroke of Art. Regina has a great perspective about life from both sides of the bedside.
Here’s what she has to say:
Favorite nursing job
“Working as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner with the neurology department that specialized in strokes at Loma Linda University Medical Center. I felt like a resident, only I knew more. I liked the critical thinking, fast pace challenges and opportunities to learn. I also worked with great nurses and nurse practitioners.”
How did you know you were out of balance in nursing?
“When I started complaining and didn’t look forward to going to work, I knew it was time to find a different area of work. It was essential for me.”
Biggest pet peeve
“There is an assumption by families and patients that the doctor saved their lives when in reality it was a nurse.”
Advice to new graduates
“Do what you love. Don't be afraid. Ask questions. Don't be a know-it-all. School taught you a lot, but you won't really learn nursing until you've had at least a year in the same job. Don't rush into graduate school; learn to be a nurse first, which doesn’t happen until you've worked with patients as an RN first. Life is short. Don't waste it.”
How she gets back into balance in her life.
“When I breathe, I note the in and out effort, which helps me forget the past and live in the Now. I accept that life isn't fair. People are limited to their own perspective and can’t always see things from mine. I don’t rely on other people to solve my problems; only I have that power and ability to do that.
More importantly, I don't dwell on the unhappiness of a situation or conversation. I don’t waste time getting angry, I spend it resolving my portion of the problem, and let go of what is not my share of the problem.