Friday, April 3, 2009

I always treat my patients like I'd want my family members treated. Always. In my short history of nursing, I can count on one hand the number of patients that have touched me deeper than others. One was a patient I had in nursing school who was deteriorating (he died a few weeks after I had him) and was very confused. I was holding his hand and he told me he loved me. I got to go with him to a test to see how well he swallowed and he couldn't do it. He was so weak and confused, he was unable to sit upright in the chair. I remember watching him struggle and just feeling so sorry for him. When I got word that he passed, I cried for him, just remembering how worn out he was.

I had a couple other patients that just died too young, for circumstances that could have been avoided. Another patient was a man who was so lonely. He had no family or friends. He was dying of liver failure from alcohol. He was miserable and sad. When your liver is failing, your skin gets really dry and itchy. Every spare minute I had, I'd go in his room with a dry towel and scratch his back for him. One of the last days I had him, he found out he had about 6 months left to live. He wanted to go back home and be with his dog. Before I left my shift, he told me I was the only person that seemed to understand him. No one else was there for him. He wanted to die alone. I'm sure he did.

My most recent one was just this week. Frequently when an elderly patient comes in with mental status changes, it's likely due to an infection. We give them IV antibiotics and they are good to go. My first day having this patient, I was praying that's all it was. I was wrong. He's full of cancer. He's so confused and his wife is devastated to see him in this condition. For some reason, I just felt so drawn to him. I was very protective of him. His pain was excruciating. When I'd ask him a question, the only one he could answer right was his name. This was the first day I had him. By day 3, he was having trouble remembering even that. One of the last things he said to me last night before I left my shift was that he was done with all of this. He didn't want treatment, he had had enough. He wanted me to call his wife and tell her. I didn't. I couldn't.

Lately I have been wondering if nursing is the right thing for me. The stress is so high, and the responsibility sometimes weighs on my shoulders like you wouldn't believe. I have the tendency to take whatever the doctor tells me and just do it. I don't question doctors, just like in my own personal life. I trust them. Occasionally though, as a nurse, I am expected to make my own judgement call regarding a patients care. If I follow through with a doctors decision when I know from my own scope of practice that it could potentially be unsafe, it's my responsibility to make the right decision. I hate that and I don't handle that well at all. But then I have my few really special patients, regardless of how sad their situation is, and it makes me want to keep going, because they have such a huge impact on my life. They make it all worthwhile.

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