A Glass of Prune Juice

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by florence2012 florence2012, BSN, RN (New)

Specializes in LTC, wound care. Has 2 years experience.

This is for the all the nursing home nurses who have ever doubted whether their hearts were still in the right place. I doubted myself one day, and was devastated by it. I lost my bearings. If I'm a nurse, why don't I have the emotions to match?

A Glass of Prune Juice

Sundays are usually pretty good days at my nursing home. Church people come and hold a little service with singing and piano playing. The CAN's don't have showers to give. Someone will usually bring the nursing staff some kind of treat, like doughnuts or pigs in a blanket. The atmosphere is just a little bit relaxed and residents and staff are in a bit of a weekend mood.

So yesterday, I couldn't figure out why a cloud had come in the door with me and stayed steadily on my shoulders throughout the morning. I was a little tired, yes, and more vigilant than usual to not make a mistake or overlook anything. And getting out the door had been a little hectic. But nothing I could really put my finger on. It was a blue day for me.

I went about my duties, filling out a summary for a returning resident, speaking with her husband, whose heart was breaking with grief at her change in mental status. While finishing up a treatment for a resident who has recently moved into the room with her brother, trying to get out of there and go help serve lunch trays, the woman broke down right there. I tidied up her bedside table and went to her and hugged her. I didn't do much, just listened to her, but it took a while, and I knew the other nurse was serving trays by herself.

When I left that room, the cloud that had settled over my day completely took over my mood. I looked around at all these sad, sick and dying people and my heart seemed to grow cold. I just didn't want to do it anymore. They're not going to get better. There will be constant grief and sadness over lost loved ones, lost homes, lost routines. I suddenly, for the first time in my career, felt that I didn't care anymore. The little compartment in my brain where I store all the unpleasantness at my job was full. I had no more room for these people, and I felt terrible about it.

The guilt was almost worse than the cold feelings and numbness I was feeling. I truly did not know how I would make it through until my lunch break, much less find the strength to return here.

But just as I was berating myself in my mind, another little voice said, Terry, look down at your hand.

I did. I was carrying a cup of prune juice that I had had to fight for in the kitchen, and then had to warm up in the lounge because it was against the rules to do it in the kitchen. The prune juice was a special request for Mrs. W on hall 400.

The little voice said, if you don't care, why do you have that in your hand?

Ah, what a gift from that little voice! I learned a lesson that day. The lesson is that a nurse's feelings might not always be in sync with her calling. She might not have her heart in what she is doing at certain moments. And that's okay.

I realized that the methods and standards I set for myself will always rule the day. They will keep me going. They helped me establish good habits, like saying, you're welcome, with a smile. Like allowing rude comments to go right over my little nurse's head. Like making extra trips down a very long hallway so that one little lady can have her warmed up prune juice.

My feelings are important, but they needn't have any influence on my work or my residents. Feelings come and go. It's the habit of kindness, the habit of service I established early on that is constant. Those I count on, every day.

Terry is raising a son and working part time in a nursing home. She loves both of her jobs.

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3 Comment(s)



84 Posts

Soo true..

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 16 years experience. 226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

One day I felt as if my heart was turning into stone, too. This occurred about seven years ago when I was working in LTC. A resident on continuous care hospice had died. This day marked a turning point that will always remain in my awareness because it was the first resident death that didn't seem to affect me on a personal level.

I know that may have sounded chilly, but after almost a decade in this business I've come to realize that some things are far worse than death itself.

Anyhow, I enjoyed the article. Thank you for caring!


Has 25 years experience. 12,646 Posts

My Dad is confused, has MS and has had multiple falls and head trauma. He is 74. He cannot walk, but when he was home he thought he could. My mom had been through many HHA's, 2 of whom stole from them. I helped when I could as did my brother, but we both work and have families of our own.

He is finally in a great place which doesn't have the best rep, but it does with us. The same staff are there week in and week out, and they speak to him tenderly, treat my mom with respect. He is treated well.

So, thank you for the prune juice. Or in his case PB&J sandwiches.

I bring his nurses and aides donuts every week. Maybe I'll get something extra good and bakery-ish this week.