Forgetful Nurses and Older Moments

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    :Forgetful Moments and Older Nurses…

    Getting older in nursing is just like getting older in real life.

    Sometimes it’s worse.

    It can be worse because not only are you charged with caring for older people and their physical, emotional and psychological changes; you are tasked with dealing with some of the same issues WHILE caring for others.

    The other night I drew some blood from a patient with routine orders post partum.

    I got as far as the desk and forgot the tubes were in my pocket.

    I forgot them (albeit briefly) because someone had the audacity to call me in to an emergency situation while I was enroute to the lab.

    Imagine that!

    About ten minutes later I happened upon my lab slips and WHAM, a lucid memory of having drawn the blood came rushing to the forefront of my brain. I sent the labs and they were fine. Thank goodness.

    Another time I was staring at the patient addressograph and couldn’t remember the name of the thing. That is, of COURSE I was aware of its presence and function; I just couldn’t form the word “addressograph” in my attempt to tell another nurse where her patient stencil was. We both laughed at that and compared mutual forgetful moments, but in the back of my mind, I wondered what it must be like to have receptive or expressive aphasia following a stroke. Now that I’m older I have to think and differentiate between the “elderly” moments and real cerebral danger. How scary is that?

    If you have never experienced those sorts of events (either one), please be grateful.

    It teaches you to be even more patient than you hopefully already were.

    It can be humorous but also humbling.

    It can be a pain on so many levels.

    I thoroughly hate it, even when it happens only once in awhile.

    I try to make light of it but it is a uniquely valid concern.

    I need to be there for my family.

    I need to be there for my patients.

    I need to be there for my co-workers.

    I need to be there for me…

    When I was a younger nurse it didn’t often happen that I would lose track of my mission on the way from a patient room to the supply cart. These days, however, if I am interrupted on the way I sometimes stare at the cart for several moments before I remember what the heck I am in search of. It would be laughable if not for the fact that it occurs to me that must be what confused patients feel like. How frightening for them.

    It can be scary and concerning and down right inconvenient.

    How is it that one nurse can make an excellent cheat sheet and then lose the darn thing more than once a shift? I have to make copies just in case I lose the first one. That’s a lot of work for a harried nurse. What else might I forget? Will it happen during a real emergency? Will I make a med error or put a patient in jeopardy?

    Yes, it is true that with age and fatigue comes forgetfulness.

    Marry those facts with menopause and it brings on a new appreciation for estrogen

    And definitely a desire for restful sleep.

    The other night I was in the middle of patient teaching with a first time mom with marginal support at home. By the luck of the draw I was also the charge nurse. That meant I was interrupted several times to intervene and investigate other matters. It was probably two hours later when I realized I had not been back to finish my teaching. I was horrified because I had told my patient I would be right back. She was very understanding but it caused me to wonder what it must feel like to patients who have to wait for long periods of time to even see a nurse due to the business or skill of the nurses working on the floors to which they are assigned.

    By now many of the nurses reading this have identified with the loss of thoughts that happen every once in awhile and later, often.

    Some are smiling or even laughing.

    But I am not….

    You see, I’m afraid.

    I’m afraid when those moments happen because I have been a nurse forever and that is what I do.

    That is who I am.

    What happens when or if I can’t be a nurse?

    What happens when I NEED a nurse?

    Those moments of forgetfulness may very well be benign side effects of aging, working twelve hour night shifts, chronic sleep deprivation and co existing and caring for a husband and three young children.

    What if it isn’t?

    Nurses need to remember that they are people first.

    They (We) are not invincible.

    We definitely aren’t perfect and we are subject to all of the fears and concerns any one else faces.

    We are a single part of the “every” one who co-exists with us.

    Losing ourselves takes on an entirely new meaning when considering that fact.

    Here is what I would like should the reality of my forgetfulness become more significant that the usual things that happen post the infamous fifty year old hallmark.

    I want a nurse to care for me who sees me for who I am, even if I am confused.

    I want a nurse who makes me laugh by laughing at him or herself.

    I want a nurse who establishes a rapport with me and my family and involves them positively in my care.

    I want a nurse who holds my hands when she talks with me, or if I cannot reply, to me.

    I want a nurse who looks into my eyes and sees my pain.

    I want a nurse who searches for whatever sparkle I might have left and nurtures it as far as it can go.

    I want someone who won’t laugh at my confusion, or ignore me in the hallway in the Geri chair because I am annoying him or her. I want a nurse who on the busiest of shifts tries to remember that I would not be screaming or soiling myself if I had any control over that.

    I want a nurse who is aware that could I do so and they were in a similar position, I would care tenderly and fiercely for them.

    I want a nurse who recognizes that I love hugs, and who is willing to give one.

    I want a nurse who tells me over and over again that I am safe and not snarl at me or resent that I am causing a scene. If I am doing that it is because I can’t help it.

    If I am angry and not confused, or somewhat confused, I want a nurse who will limit set with me appropriately and not worry about his or her job when they do.

    I want someone to talk to me and not over me if I am in a comatose or vegetative state.

    I want a nurse who will read to me if I can’t see or for any reason not be able to do so myself.

    I want nurses who will talk to each other while they are tending to me but say so and include me by doing so if I can’t respond. I can hear you.

    I want a nurse who respects and works with my family and understands that I am not just a patient to them. I am (or was) their life. I am (or was) their mother or wife. I am (or was) just a person like them.

    I want a nurse who understands that I may be in pain even if I can’t talk or ask for pain medication.

    I want a nurse who can see pain in my face or in my actions and doesn’t leave me without pain medication because I can’t ask for analgesia.

    I want a nurse who pays attention to subltle nuance...

    I want a nurse who doesn't dismiss me or my importance in the world simply because I can't talk, see, relate or care for myself.

    I want a nurse who will wonder and honor who I am and who I used to be.

    I want a nurse who will constantly search for signs that my mind is functioning even if and when my body is not.

    I want a nurse who will advocate for me and my familyI want a nurse who is not afraid to touch me.

    I want a nurse who is not afraid to cry.

    I want a nurse who is special…

    In other words, I want to be cared for the way I try to care for others.

    There are so many other things I need.

    There are so many things I want.

    I would tell you what they are

    But I forget….

    Written by…Martha RN
    Last edit by brian on Apr 1, '08 : Reason: correcting
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  3. by   bobbiegirl

    I know exactly how you feel. I have be an RN FOREVER. Forgetting can be scary. Just remember that it is most likely due to overwork, stress, and just plain tiredness!! I have found that talking to myself(no I am not crazt yet!) helps me organize my mind and keep me on track. Keep plugging along. All will be well.

    Been there
  4. by   oramar
    I certainly know of what you speak. It does not help that so many medications are in tiny little packages or vials with even tinier writing. I wish they would remember that not all nurses are 35 and under these days.
  5. by   mpolice
    Sounds like you need a nanny for yourself. Seriously, fatigue could be a major factor. If you are going through perimenopause, maybe you need a sleep aid. This would be a good time to revamp your vitamin regimen and nutrition intake. I just hired back into hospital nursing, after a 3 yr absence, at 52 yrs old. I was sick with virus after virus for the first 8 weeks. My cousin, a pharmacist, told me to drink DanActive once a day for 14 days and then once a week thereafter. She said to get on an extended release Vitamin C, and search for a multi-vitamin with good bioavailability. Basically, she said to start paying attention to my health which is something that nurses tend to neglect (probably cuz we're so fatigued - hence the cycle continues). It's now been 4 months and I'm feeling peppier than I ever have. Oh, the Ambien CR is a huge help! I hope you are able to do something nice for yourself. You must be very busy with 3 children. Best of luck to you. Marie:heartbeat
  6. by   clayah
    I agree with Marie. I stopped working 12 hour shifts and now work 8 hour shifts because I know I can practice safely in an 8 hour framework.
    Age isn't the only reason you forget names of things. It is scary when you do it yourself - I have and have wondered why to myself.
    If I'm not in a stressful situation my recollection is better.
    I wish you the best and thank you for bringing up this topic - I was wondering if I was the only one.
  7. by   LovingNurse
    Absolutely lovely article, Martha. May all your good come back to you! If or when you need care, I pray it will be through the kind and gentle nurses you've touched along the way by your fine examples of compassion.
  8. by   mother/babyRN
    Awww..Thank you everyone.....I will try some of the advice and I know that at the moment, things are just due to what I mentioned, because during the time I am off or manage to catch up with sleep, it is much better. Unfortunately, I am not at a place where I can change my work circumstances, and I have an amazing husband who helps out tremendously.....But, there are those moments where we have to wonder when things are "normal" and when they are not.....That, I guess, is just the way life is......But, thank you so much for all your advice and replies...I want to have all of you as my nurses!
  9. by   FranEMTnurse
    When I used to get stressed out, I taught backwards. Not a good thing since I didn't even realize I did it. It happened once in a CPR class.
    Last edit by ElvishDNP on May 21, '08 : Reason: edited out OP, as very long
  10. by   mizfradd
    I absolutely love your article but have to tell you that I work with an amzing RN that is 70 & we won't let her retire!
    She looks as though she's in her late 50's and has taught us a lot and we are still learning from her.
    I know that is why she stays young in mind, body & Martha, I do believe you still have a loooong way to go before any worries might happen. :wink2:
    Last edit by mizfradd on May 24, '08 : Reason: syntax
  11. by   ritaPHIL
    love the article.
  12. by   ysth83
    I'm a very forgetful person and could very much relate to you (I'm not even in my 30's yet). And perhaps bacause I'm still young I haven't thought that far into the future and address the fears you have. You're story made me think deeply... and yes, it is scary.
  13. by   rmarz
    Nursehiemers. When you have 50 things to remember, well ****s gonna happen =P
    Last edit by ElvishDNP on Jul 25, '08 : Reason: TOS
  14. by   doingbetter
    Thank you. You speak for most of us over 55er's I'll bet.