Reflections of a NurseI have worked in Neurosurgery for almost seven years and it has been the most challenging and rewarding job I have ever had. I cannot count how many physical and emotional bruises I have received along the way. Some of the names I have been called have cut me to my very core and make me ask myself why I am even doing this, but then there are those patients that make it all worth it.
A nurse is a nurse, regardless of their journey
I have recently transitioned to a position working under one neurosurgeon whose specialty is Gamma Knife. The procedure involves shooting gamma radiation at a targeted point in the brain. We treat various types of brain tumors, arteriovenous malformations, trigeminal neuralgia, and essential tremors. We are also currently researching how to use Gamma Knife to treat extreme OCD. Our treatment team will still perform certain spinal surgeries and care for other neurosurgery patients who come into the emergency room while the neurosurgeon is on call.
A typical procedural day for me consists of greeting the patient when they arrive from the operating room once their frame has been attached, and keeping them comfortable while the wait for treatment. The frame, or "crown" as some patients call it, is a large metal frame that is screwed into the patient's skull and attaches to the Gamma Knife machine. The purpose of the frame is to keep the patient's head absolutely still because even the slightest movement could result in radiating healthy brain tissue. Once their treatment is over, we remove the frame and I monitor them for at least 45 minutes before discharging them home.
On days that I am not scheduled to help treat patients, I operate as the coordinator for the clinic. I review and organize all of the referrals before I present them to the neurosurgeon in a film conference. Our patients range in age from pediatric to geriatric, and with conditions of benign to metastatic lesions. We treat patients from all over the world. I find it very rewarding to meet the patient at their initial visit, be with them during their treatment, and see them at their follow up appointments. I love being able to tell them that their treatment was successful and to hear the relief in their voice. Unfortunately, I am also the bearer of bad news. It is very difficult and emotional when I have to make those phone calls and hear their disappointment. I have witnessed throughout my career that the most devastating lesions happen to the nicest, most generous individuals - life is not always fair.
My position allows for more autonomy, which can be both a blessing and a curse. I am able to work at my own pace and organize my work tasks and schedule. And there are times where I have to triage a phone call from a patient and I do not have anyone I can discuss the situation with in the moment so I have to use my best nursing judgment. For example, a patient will call complaining of stroke-like symptoms. This is a situation where I do not have time to wait around for an answer from the nurse practitioner or resident - I have to tell them to get medical attention immediately.
Having worked inpatient for six years, I was ready to experience another area of neurosurgery. Making the transition was a little rough at first because I was used to the fast pace of the unit and being "in the thick of it". Now I am able to focus all of my attention on one patient at a time. Sometimes I feel as though I am not a "true" nurse because I am not working on the floor anymore. But then I remember I am a nurse regardless of where I work. I help take care of individuals at some of the worst times in their lives. I still cry with them, I still give medications, I still hold their hands to make them feel better, and sometimes I still get yelled at. Just because I am not stabilizing a traumatic brain injury or participating in a code does not make my job any less important. The nurse is the closest regular contact a patient encounters in any medical situation; our compassion and professionalism in whatever role we have reflects on the entire medical team and leaves a long-lasting impression with the patient.