Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hospitals. Part 1

I have always liked hospitals. My earliest hospital related memories involved my siblings being born, a snippet or two I even recall from the birth of my first sister when i was 18 months old. Or at least I think I do.
I remember going with my dad to buy flowers for my mom--a plant with tiny purple and yellow buds--and going to visit my mom and my next baby sister when I was 5. I remember the bed went up and down. I remember it was sunny. Mostly I remember my mom was there and she was away for what seemed like so long. She had bundled outfits together for me in my drawer before she left, so my dad wouldn't have to match.
And then when i was seven, I remember waiting with my sister and a nurse in a dimly lit room with a tv in what seemed like the middle of the night. I remember the excitement and anticipation and i loved it, even when my brother appeared in my dads arms all wrinkly and red and unattractive and I thought--"oh, too bad for our family. We will love him anyway."
I knew my dad worked at the hospital and I knew whenever we were here it was because something exciting was happening--my friend was getting a sibling or my sister was getting her tonsils out and that came with Popsicles and a balloon bouquet that almost destroyed me I was so jealous. Sometimes we got to visit my dad and he got to wear blue jammies and make balloons out of latex gloves. The hospital was a mysterious adventure.
In high school a friend said once that she hated hospitals, and she had good reason-- a grandparent dying slowly and the smell of the place. I announced that i loved hospitals....well...because they are fun. And dim and cozy and....(here I tried to be poetic and intelligent)...people go there to heal.
I had no other extensive experience with hospitals until my first day of clinicals in nursing school. I learned a lot. All the patients were so old. And most of them cranky. There were no doctors....where are the doctors!? Ah. They come around once a day, to round, and then they disappear. The hospital I was at was not the cozy carpeted private facility I had known back in the baby days, this was cold and white and yes, had a distinct smell. The rooms were not sunny. No one blew up gloves.
And yet I still loved it. There was so much to learn and so many crazy conditions I hadn't known existed. It was another world and I was going to be a part of it! I got to wear scrubs. I found out what the human body actually looks like, minus the editing. Things that would once shock became every day. There were awesome people, both patients and nurses and although every day was not wonderful, every day was still an adventure.
I especially loved it at night. Things slowed down and it was quiet. Sometimes even cozy again. Our hospital is up on the mountain and at night the whole city stretches out before you, twinkling in the black or blanketed with snow. I would take a deep breath and look out the window when I got over-stressed. Or when I did something stupid in front of a patient. Or when I had a patient who didn't know who I was or what was going on and was scared and upset. Wouldn't take their meds, let me listen to their lungs, wouldn't just go to sleep. Or when someone died.
My first death in nursing school was good. She was very, very old and her whole family was there. The nurses knew it was coming before the family did and I was a little shocked and offended at how casually they discussed it. It wasn't familiar to me yet. It was still mystical and not to be mentioned. She was our patient, mine and my preceptor's. There was a hospice nurse there, a southern black woman who knew the patient well. She was smiling and hugging everyone. A grandson ran out of the room sobbing. When she died I was out in the hall with the hospice nurse. The family let out a collective cry and the nurse announced "Oh well done, Hallelujah!" and rushed in to hand out more hugs. That's how I decided I wanted to be. The family kept crying, holding her hands, but they were smiling. It was warm and dim and cozy.
My first nursing job was short lived, just 5 months. I was there when the hospital opened and a lot of kinks needed to be worked out. Staffing kinks too. Lots of new grads. I cried a lot, I hated 12 hour shifts, I made dumb mistakes. I loved the patients. The views from our new giant rooms were incredible and I worked mostly nights. I was able to sit and talk for an hour once with a woman at night in her room when she was lonely. I cried with a patient whose doctors came in and told him there was nothing left to do while we were discussing a sitcom. I prayed with a woman. I broke down in happy tears when a catheter finally went in and the bladder emptied. In the end it was staffing issues, and exhaustion that made me leave. Our manager thought it made sense to work two nights and a day shift every week. Once she scheduled me for 24 straight hours. Finally she called and told me I had to work the following night, even though I had I requested it off three months prior, had covered a sick call last minute that week and had a friend flying in from out of state to see a concert for her birthday.
When I resigned she tried to convince me to stay and told me I was a good nurse. That my patients loved me. That just gave me more confidence to go.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Susan said...

Does this mean you are currently not working as a nurse?
I think your patients are (have been) blessed to have you. I'd like you to be my nurse;).

Kim said...

Wow! I love talking and listening to people who love that they are nurses, although I am a nurse. I don't feel that I was called to it as so many people who are nurses have been. For me it is a job that I don't hate most days, that I enjoy a few days, and a job that moves me on occation. When I am in the Hospital for the time that I work with a patient I try to bethere for them completely. I think that is why I love L&D so much I have them I complete a part of there care and I can move on.