Yesterday was my first full day of clinicals in this new semester. I'm at a new-to-me hospital this time, in a cardiac unit, where most of our patients have recently undergone heart surgeries.
Last semester, we all felt like we were just thrown head first into being nurses - and we were - but our tasks were mostly care tech jobs: bathing, walking, occasionally giving meds with our instructor, and reporting to the nurse if we noticed anything alarming (and then doing tons of paperwork on our patients for assignments). We were definitely hands on, but not so much in a nursing capacity. We weren't making any autonomous decisions, cleaning wounds, or consulting with physicians (thank goodness!). We were just getting used to being in the hospital, developing rapport with our patients, and learning standard protocol.
This semester, we're already feeling a lot more like real nurses. We give medications (including shots), adjust oxygen levels, work with IVs, check blood glucose, and the list goes on and on. Basically, we're our patient's primary provider during our shift, though the nurse is still responsible. It's been a giant step up, but I'm loving it! Yesterday was exhausting as there is literally no place to sit down on the unit. I was nervous about having the endurance to be able work from 6:30am to 2:30pm straight, with the sensory overload of a new hospital. But when it was over, it almost felt like it had just begun (almost).
I'm learning so quickly the difference between a nurse who just does her job and a nurse who cares. It probably sounds cliché, but there is just such a huge chasm between the two (and I see both every day). I'm so motivated to be the latter: to ask questions instead of making assumptions, to treat the patient as a hurting person and not just a bunch of lab values, and to smile. A genuine smile goes such a long way in a hospital, and sometimes you go a really long time without seeing one.
Last night when I got home from my painting job, I told Shawn that I couldn't stop thinking about my patient: that he was still in the hospital and probably alone and hurting while I just got on with my life. I felt so sad for him. It's going to be an adjustment in how much compassion and empathy I can feel and where I need to draw the line, tell myself, "I did the very best I could to take care of him" and lay it down. Sometimes the reality of thousands of patients is so overwhelming to me. It's just so evident to me of how truly broken our world is, and how truly in need of Savior we are. Praise God that there will be no such thing as a hospital in Heaven! No need, right?
PS - This whole post feels very vague, and I wish I could share stories (because I think you would be fascinated by them as I was), but I'm always super nervous about violating the patients' right to privacy. Someday, when I get to sit over coffee with each of you (ha!), I'll get to tell you the stories and you'll shake your head and say, "That really happened?!" and I'll just nod and say, "Yep. And I got to be there." I feel so very lucky.