Originally posted by Bessie:
<STRONG>Thanks for all the responses!
I can take the good with the bad in any job. However, the bad in nursing can be soooo bad...death, dismemberment, abuse...and on and on. I do need to develop some resistance to the bad, so I don't cry so much. Every clinical rotation I had, I encountered some patient situation that made me cry. My instructors all tell me that I will not cry so much after a while and that my sensitivity will make me a good nurse. I hope they are right!
Bessie, you have gotten to the heart of what makes nursing so hard sometimes. Every time I have started a new clinical endeavour and didn't yet have my "calluses" in place, I was struck with breath-taking clarity by the painfulness of what patients and their families were experiencing. This still happens and I have been in the business 23 years.
Our challenge in nursing is to feel our feelings but not become immobilized by them. (A constantly crying, immobilized nurse doesn't help the patient.) At the center of our sadness for our patients and ourselves, we can find simple sadness for what is happening to another, fear about our own mortality, feelings of helplessness when we cannot fix it or entirely make it better, anger at our patients for not getting better or for doing things that make them sick (smoke, drink and drive, go off their diets), helplessness when witnessing a family's life change in a single event [death or disability of any member], identification with patients that are like us or our families and the list could go on and on. All of these feelings are over whelming and at times we just want relief from them. Some nurses take relief in gallows humor--oh let us be honest--we ALL take relief in gallows humor AT TIMES. That is the twisted sense of humor that you see day in and day out in any hospital unit and best exemplified on the program M*A*S*H.
Some days, I come home from my job angry and appalled at what so many American children go through in their families. In my previous case management job, I was almost daily horrified by the extreme suffering of my families so artfully prolonged by the skills of modern day medicine. You as a student nurse are building your skills and being exposed to a panopoly of suffering in a rapid sequence as you go from clinical speciality to clinical specialty. And yet, you don't get to _stick around long enough_ to see that families adapt, patients get better, people find silver linings in their clouds.
Gallow's humor, aforementioned, is a great temporary tool and not to be disregarded but many of us will start to evolve some spiritual belief system to help us cope. Poor coping with the pain and suffering can lead to burn out. So I am saying, just as it is important to learn how to give an IM injection, take time to learn some coping skills with what you see and experience in the world around you.
The experienced nurses here will write things about how they cope with the sadness and the pain. I think number one would be "talking with another nurse." As someone I know said to me as a new GN, "Your family doesn't want to hear this. They want to think their doctor and hospital are perfect and that all outcomes are good." Another one is to accept that suffering is a real part of life and that, though we can alleviate it [and often do], we cannot eliminate it. Another coping method is to take good care of yourself--good sleep habits, good dietary habits, have hobbies and activities that are not nursing related (particularly hard to do when you are a student nurse). Try meditation. Accept that, at some point, we are not in charge here and not all things are in our control. If you have a faith tradition, look at what it says about pain and suffering and death.
Learn the Serenity Prayer (God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change those I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.)
The fact is, the things you witness are sad and tragic and sometimes unnecessary. But they would happen whether you were there or not and, by being there, you have a chance to alleviate pain, help someone do it better next time, move them toward a behavior change that will change their life in a positive way, help them learn a new skill that will make them better. The act of caring says to a patient, "You are worth being cared for!" We are honored to be the purveyors of that message. At the end of EVERY DAY give yourself credit for something you did well.
You are obviously a tender-spirited person and maybe young? so you are being immersed in pains and problems your non-nursing peers cannot even imagine. Grow some coping skills, but don't stop feeling.