Perspective and sympathy

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    I have a question for my fellow pediatric nurses. Do you feel that being a pediatric nurse has changed your perspective on other people's complaints and altered your ability to sympathize with them? I'm not talking about serious things (I can still sympathize with someone whose mother or grandmother has cancer but I probably do get less excited about it than your average person) but the more typical issues.

    For example, my background is pediatric oncology and pediatric neurology/neurosurgery. I currently work in home care, primarily with pediatric oncology patients, and per diem at a school. Today, at school, I had a teenager come in and tell me she was "dying" because she had period cramps. I can't even feign being concerned when someone tells me that and when people say this to me, I find myself thinking "many of my other patients ARE dying and they complain less than you." I gave her Midol and sent her back to class.
    Altra, nursel56, Esme12, and 2 others like this.
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  4. 3
    Ahhhhhh....teenage drama. I have one, I know all too well about teenage girls. I don't think it is just a peds RN thing. I'm an ED nurse and my kids know....no blood, no bones...you're fine....buck up.....get over it!
    KelRN215, Altra, and CrufflerJJ like this.
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    This is certainly not limited to peds ... my definition of a Very Bad Day is not the same as that of most of the general population, ya know? My threshhold for "terrible" is a lot higher.

    But I will say that peds ... is particularly tough. It always amazes me to hear peds nurses described as if they are simply there to bring comfort, or to hear very inexperienced nursing students say they are *sure* they want to do pediatric oncology or PICU. They have no idea.

    Hats off to you ... I see critical kiddos in the ED on a semi-regular basis but it always tugs at my heart. You do - day in and day out - what I could not. Thanks for all that you do.
    misscherie likes this.
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    My teen some months actually does feel like she's dying. We've been trying to find the right pill for her but each menstrual cycle brings debilitating cramping, vomiting, migraines, depression and lethargy. Food for thought.

    I tend to view the world in a story form. Someone always has a better story than I do (or worse) but it's up to me to set aside my personal experiences and try to understand what they're experiencing. Perception is, in my opinion, the best and worst thing nurses have.

    So where a shift nurse sees a patient who is non-compliant and loves the attention of multiple stays on the med/surg floor, I see a person who is battling overwhelming life circumstances and badly needs support of a qualified mental health professional. My life experiences color my perception as does everyone's.

    On that note, no way I could do peds.
    kimbap and brownbook like this.
  7. 0
    I also was a PICU nurse for many years. I was tough on my kids...one of whom has a congenital heart defect...and expected them to buck up.

    This came to a "head" when my teen daughter called me at work one day saying she hurt her shoulder in gym and I, of course, told her to get over it. She came into our clinic a short while to see me and I discovered that she had dislocated her shoulder...geesh.
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    Crazed you are amazing. I really get what you say.

    But, there is always a but, I find it easy to see the med/surg patient as you see them. Overwhelming life circumstances, needing support etc. Whereas my own family......I guess because I know their life story and available support....I get really annoyed.

    My husband has gotten severely overly dramatic, and turns into a grumpy bear, over......bunions...... hemorrhoids.... insomnia...and sciatica. Not at the same time. Geesh.......I grit my teeth, roll my eyes......and put on my fake smile, kind voice, and sympathetic words.

    And of course he doesn't listen to or believe a word I tell him about their cause, treatment, etc. And never seems to think I am being supportive enough!
    tewdles and kimbap like this.
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    Quote from Altra
    This is certainly not limited to peds ... my definition of a Very Bad Day is not the same as that of most of the general population, ya know? My threshhold for "terrible" is a lot higher.But I will say that peds ... is particularly tough. It always amazes me to hear peds nurses described as if they are simply there to bring comfort, or to hear very inexperienced nursing students say they are *sure* they want to do pediatric oncology or PICU. They have no idea.Hats off to you ... I see critical kiddos in the ED on a semi-regular basis but it always tugs at my heart. You do - day in and day out - what I could not. Thanks for all that you do.
    like another poster I am the same...no blood...no mercy. Get back in the saddle and go. Sometimes my kids hate me. I am a student though and not Peds oncology (the idea that i could lose more patients than not scares me for some reason, but its also why i wont survive in hospice) but I have considered picu or NICU. I know it's tough, and I'm not sure how I will handle losing a Peds patient. I have lost adults as an EMT, but I also got headed towards medicine when I was nursing y babies and became a breast feeding counselor. I'd like to stay with the parent child triad. I feel most comfortable there.
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    I don't work exclusively with peds, but they are a part of the patient population I serve.

    I have cared for people experiencing everything from death (both expected and unexpected) to the common cold (yes, people actually do present to the Emergency Department for the common cold).

    As difficult as it can be at times, I think it is important to be able to look at the person in front of you and summon up some empathy for their individual situation. No, your average menstrual cramps aren't going to kill you, but to that person, it is significant and it can be distressing. Just because some people have it worse does not invalidate the experience of the other person.

    It doesn't mean you have to gush sympathy for the person with the completely benign complaint; however, part of being there for them is to empathize.
    misscherie likes this.
  11. 2
    Quote from brownbook
    My husband has gotten severely overly dramatic, and turns into a grumpy bear, over......bunions...... hemorrhoids.... insomnia...and sciatica. Not at the same time. Geesh.......I grit my teeth, roll my eyes......and put on my fake smile, kind voice, and sympathetic words.

    And of course he doesn't listen to or believe a word I tell him about their cause, treatment, etc. And never seems to think I am being supportive enough!
    Are we married to the same man???

    Anyways, I think nurses have to be cautious with how much sympathy we dole out. There are sick people with hard lives, and we need to care for them the best we can, without getting too emotionally involved.

    I definitely want to tell people to "suck it up" far more often than I actually do... Except my husband. I do tell him to suck it up. Poor man.
    smurfynursey and brownbook like this.
  12. 0
    I think my brain is wired in such a way that I'm able to separate the drama from either dying children or my own family history with pediatric cancer most of the time. Or maybe I just think I am. I say that because sometimes a chance remark hits me in such a way that it feels like a thousand daggers are stabbing me in the heart. I remember one such instance when my daughter was around 10 years old. She mentioned a girl that had been in treatment for cancer (the parents/school was very open about it) - my daughter said "but she's all better now, mom". Except that I knew she wasn't. She passed away a few months later. I think it was that little innocent "she's all better" that did it. I guess childhood is about innocence and growing up about the loss of same. You just hate to see your child lose their illusions.


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