Cruel Summer

During this strange, sad summer of 2013, a fifty-something nurse in the middle of a seismic shift in life circumstances finds that her ability to safely practice her profession has changed as well. This is a story of heartbreak, of fear of the unknown.....and of acceptance. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


Cruel Summer

To say that the summer of 2013 will go down in history as my worst ever would be the understatement of the century.

I lost my high-paying, executive-level job in May to a combination of a stress-induced bipolar crisis and corporate politics. This was followed shortly by my elderly sister's disastrous fall here at home which led to two months in a skilled nursing facility; and now I'm watching her decline at an alarming rate as she sits in an ALF, hating life, refusing to walk or even wheel herself around the building, and becoming more demented by the day.

Then, just as we were getting her living situation settled, along came the lightning bolt out of NOWHERE whose name is pancreatic cancer. It struck my husband hard and it struck him fast and it spread to his liver before we had any idea that he was sick. He now faces a grueling course of treatment which, if God is merciful and gives us more than the 3-6 months he might live without it, will make him even sicker.....but possibly shrink the tumors enough to relieve his pain and distension.

Okay. One crisis at a time. Breathe........yes, I can do this. My own illness is hiding under a rock someplace, I'm stable on medications, and nothing I'm experiencing is the least bit unusual for someone who will probably be widowed by the time the snow flies.

But wait, it gets even better.

During the course of five weeks of employment at my old nursing home, it has become painfully apparent to me that my suspicions about my ability to continue working as a nurse were correct: it is indeed time to hang up my stethoscope.

I didn't come to this conclusion easily. Indeed, I've fought it for many months, not wanting to believe my career might be over. All I needed---or so I kept telling myself---was to get a routine down; all I had to do to be successful again was relearn how to prioritize and to cope with multiple and shifting demands.

And. I. Can't.

I'm OK with being an ancillary nurse, who mostly does admissions and the occasional PRN med pass or treatments. Heck, I'm even good at it---all I have to do is greet the new resident and get him settled in, assess his physical and mental status, show the family around, get consents signed, and do a stack of paperwork in addition to entering the information in the computer database. That's easy---yes, it takes a couple of hours to do each one, and the assessment piece is very detailed; but I'm not responsible for this person other than to make sure the initial care plan is done and perhaps give him a pain pill if he needs one.

It's the kind of full-on, hard-driving floor nursing I once did so well that's now beyond my capabilities. It didn't take very many shifts on the long-term care wing to scare myself to pieces; granted, I didn't have enough time to establish a routine, but the mechanics of it haven't changed since I last worked there, and I simply cannot deal with constantly changing priorities anymore.

For example, I waste precious time running back and forth from the med room to the residents' rooms. Why? Because I can't work from the cart in the hall without being distracted by staff, residents, families, the phone, and so on. If I'm in the middle of pouring a cupful of meds and someone asks me a question, I literally have to go back through the MAR and the pill cards all over again to see where I've left off. And since I can't focus for very long, I have to read each order on the MAR and look at each card at least twice....also a colossal waste of time, but I'm too afraid of making a mistake NOT to do it.

Even after half-a-dozen shifts on the unit, I still can't remember some of the residents' names, and I have trouble recognizing them when they're up and dressed, as opposed to lying in bed asleep when I bring in their early AM meds. One time I almost did a fingerstick on a very demented resident who looks like another lady who lives down the hall; thankfully I'm anal-retentive enough to check their wristbands, and to ask the CNA who they are when they're not wearing one!

But it's these 'little' things which have forced me to realize that I've got no business holding people's lives in my shaky hands. It's not a crisis of confidence; rather, I believe I've finally internalized the truth that I really can't do this kind of work. Which makes me feel bad, and sad, and mad.......but as with all the other losses I've been dealing with during this cruel summer, I think it's best to try to contain the damage and avoid more serious consequences down the road.

So.....the plan is for me to stay on as a weekend ancillary nurse and be the best ambassador for my facility that I can be. I need the weekdays to be with my husband during (and after) his treatments, but I'll probably still manage to get in enough practice hours to renew my license in 2015. In the meantime, I'm going to spend as much time as possible with my soulmate while he's here, and ponder my next act whenever I have a few moments to myself.

As clich�d as it sounds, the winds of change blow over us all, the just and the unjust, the loved and the unloved......the ones whose lives are just beginning, and those whose lives are about to end. The only constant in life IS change. And may God grant me the serenity to accept it, no matter what it may cost me.

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

I'm a Registered Nurse and writer who, in better times, has enjoyed a busy and varied career which includes stints as a Med/Surg floor nurse, a director of nursing, a nurse consultant, and an assistant administrator. And when I'm not working as a nurse, I'm writing about nursing right here at and putting together the chapters for a future book about---what else?---nursing.

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CheesePotato, BSN, RN

10 Articles; 254 Posts

Specializes in Sleep medicine,Floor nursing, OR, Trauma.

Oh dear heaven, my friend.

My heart absolutely breaks and bleeds for your suffering and devastation. How I wish there was something other than my words, thoughts and prayers that I could offer you.

Though your journey has lead you here where sadness and even despair linger, know you are not alone. Never alone.

Embrace this time with your husband as a time of bonding, of loving, peace, and relearning the gentle, loving man who's essence will forever be tattooed on your heart and cradled in your soul.

Remember to take care of yourself--to treat yourself with compassion and forgiveness.

If these stumpy arms could reach, oh how I would hug you,


Specializes in Aesthetics, Med/Surg, Outpatient.

Prayers to you... I know it must be hard but something great will come out of it all. Until then, please be strong :saint:

Hugs, just hugs and love.

CrunchRN, ADN, RN

4,515 Posts

Specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health.

I am so sorry to hear about your husband. That alone would bring me to my knees. I am sure it is the current state of your lie and all those worries and stressors that make concentration and memory so challenging. I just want to wish you well.

Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN

1 Article; 20,908 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma.

((HUGS)) KNOW I'm here

Altra, BSN, RN

6,255 Posts

Specializes in Emergency & Trauma/Adult ICU.

Prayers said for you & your family, Viva.


989 Posts

I have no words other than to say I am sorry you and your family are going through this. You are and continue to be a light for many and many are and continue to root for you, wish you good things and I am one of those on here. One day at a time is all you can do, sometimes one hour or one minute - and even though you are going to feel overwhelmed and lone at times as difficult as it may be please know we, on here, are supporting you through thoughts and prayers. I know I am.


223 Posts

Specializes in LTC.

Oh dear one, you and your hubby will be in my prayers. May God grant you strength and peace that passes all understanding. Big (((HUGS))).

Specializes in ED.

Hugs and prayers to you in your time of need.


434 Posts

Specializes in Eventually Midwifery.

My heart aches for you. The winds of change can be quite cold and cruel. I will light a candle for you and your family.


27 Posts

(((Hugs))) and prayers. You are shouldering a lot, so don't forget to take care of yourself. Make sure you have an outlet to decompress. Remind yourself that you are going to get through it even if its only taking it an hour at a time. Know that there are people on here who are thinking about you and your family and lifting you in prayer.

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