When others ask what you do...

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    I have been a pediatric nurse for 5 years. I started in a pediatric hospital doing inpatient neurology/neurosurgery and I currently do home health intermittent visits, primarily for patients with cancer. I've been doing it for so long that I barely remember that it's not normal for kids to have cancer or for them to be G-tube dependent, etc. I've had a few situations this year where I've been asked about my job and then when I describe the patients that I care for (many of whom die or are permanently neurologically devastated), the other person is completely dumbfounded and has this look of horror on their face. Like today, for example, I was out with this guy who was asking me about my patients and I started talking about this little baby (1 month old) who developed hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy after prolonged shoulder dystocia and was without a heart beat for the 1st 18 minutes of her life. I was seeing for G/J tube teaching. This is apparently terrifying to your average person. I think I am completely jaded. Anyone else?
  2. 12 Comments so far...

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    I am right there with you. I work trauma ICU so I see and deal with all the traumatic injured. The 16 year old MI from drug overdose that is now brain dead, the self inflicted CSW to the head or chest,the drunk driver victims. Just a few examples. Many of my non nursing friends are horrified by the stories, so I try to keep my answers now brief lol... My hubby just loves going out to dinner with my nursing buddies Talk about a nice dinner conversation LOL !!!
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    My hat is off to you, I would not be able to deal with the kiddo's. Just a child in pain can bring tears to my eyes. I'm sure you are a godsend to the parents and their lil ones
    anon456 likes this.
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    hmm I would have to say we are all jaded.
    Last week I was taking care of my units miracle baby...one of the few I would truly call a miracle. He survived heart surgeries, two times on ecmo and multiple other procedures. He is 13 months old (was hospitalized from 6mos-12mos), he was in for a short visit post a trach change (he had a very special trach). Despite his trach, gtube and medical history he is probably one of the most appropriate 13 mo olds my unit has seen. I was playing with him, throwing him up in the air, parading him around in the wagon. Well the student I had with me seemed absolutely terrified of him! I had to do my other patients assessment and this one would bust out the crocodile tears any time he was left alone so I sent her in there to play with him while I was away and she basically just stood there and looked at him. We forget that most people are not used to these types of patients. To me he was like a day long, fun, babysitting shift but anyone outside our world would not see that.

    I work NICU/Peds CICU and when people outside my nursing friends ask me what I do I don't get into much detail. They can't understand and most don't want to know about the world we live in where children suffer and die.
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    Yep - most people don't really want to know the details.

    "So you work in the happy place with all the babies?"
    "Uh huh, sure. That's me."
    wooh and KelRN215 like this.
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    Yes, and it's hard to come home and not be able to talk about work with my husband or friends. They can tell me what a bad day they had because of a manager or a project or something, but I can't tell them about my tough day of a total care kid with diarrhea, a difficult parent, or a kid with neuro storming that I was not able to help beyond sedation and cooling blankets. It's horrifying to them. I have to debrief by talking to nurse friends on the way home and they do the same with me. Everyone says, "How nice to be a peds nurse, it must be so rewarding!" Well yes, but in the ways I imagined it would be that's for sure.
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    They don't want to hear the details. What do I do? "I torture children for a living!haha!" And move on. Even adult healthcare providers don't get it. They can find the dark humor in adult tragedy, but most will wince at what these kids go through.
    The details are what coworkers and allnurses are for.
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    I work at a pediatric hospice and when I say that is my specialty, and moreover than that that I really truly enjoy my job I get horrible looks.
    KelRN215 and wooh like this.
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    It's because the image is that children are innocent and the idea that these things happen, especially to the young, is too much, too graphic, and too "real". You're use to it, you have the stomach and the heart for it, but not everyone does.
    wooh likes this.
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    Very interesting topic. My mum picked me up after work last week, and there was a parent I was speaking to out the front who's child has relapsed ALL. The child had had chemo that day and was holding a V-bag and laying like a starfish on the ground out the front. She had no energy, low haemoglobin, I thought nothing of it. My mum was shocked and I had to explain that a round of chemo means the kid was just whacked, no energy, and just wanted to feel the rays of sunshine on her thin body. It made me realise I had become "used" to seeing children like this. However, if I see a sick child at a shopping centre it does feel out of place. That being said, my emotions, empathy, sympathy, and love are not gone. I just can't be affected and think "that poor child" every day for 8 hours or I would become an emotional wreck and be unable to do my job.


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