Nursing school is rough...very rough. At some point in time we all wonder if it's all worth it. This is my experience of why it is.It's the first day of nursing school. I have been waiting for this moment for almost two years now. I'm excited, anxious and eager. I'm in the first phase of dedicating my life to improving the lives of others. But what does this mean? I have no clue, but I've arrived.
Day two, lectures. Day three, more lectures. Day four, even more amassed. My days are filled with medical-surgical edification, bio- and a whole list of pharmaceuticals. I've sat on these wooden boards for so long that I've almost developed hemorrhoids. This is physiologic proof that nursing school is, indeed, a pain in the butt. It's ok though; I'm going help people. I've arrived.
As time slips away, I miss my friends, my family and the time that I used to enjoy is now filled with memorizing "ways to help people." I've also suffered a myocardial infarction, a broken heart... my first true love has left me, simply for the fact that I am spending too much time focusing on "helping other people." I've arrived, yet I'm starting to wonder if it's all worth it. I haven't even stepped foot in a hospital.
My first patient, Mr. W, was hospitalized with a C1 burst fracture and a vertebral artery dissection. A self inflicted GSW. As a first time nursing student, I had no clue what this all meant. Walking into clinical, I soon find out. A self inflicted GSW means that on the night of September 10th, 2011 Mr. W had a planned meeting with what some believe in as angels. Life was no longer worth bearing and so he wrapped his burly hands around a 22-caliber pistol, inserted it into his mouth and rang the doorbell to heaven.
No answer. He awakes in a life that is worse than death itself. Mr. W is placed in a halo neck brace. I don't have to explain the symbolism here, but just maybe I can believe that I was given this patient for a reason. I hear doctors discuss his status, throwing around their medical jargon. Apparently, their current definition of healing Mr. W involves pumping Oxycodone into him. Nice. Is this what the healthcare profession has become? I've arrived, and on my first day of clinical, I know it's not worth it.
I do my duty. "Hi, Mr. W, I'm Ryan a nursing student and believe it or not you're my very first patient ever." He wasn't interested. Isn't this supposed to be a rewarding profession? "Ryan, you have to do your physical assessment, I know he's conscious, so remember to grab his orientation" says my preceptor. I walk back in, "I'm sorry to disturb you Mr. W, but do you know who you are, where you are, and why you're here?" He looks at me, closes his eyes and nods his halo. I leave.
I'm uncomfortable and so I try to keep my interaction with him at a minimal. I'm allowed to shadow his nurse and when we both walk into his room I see a side of Mr. W that I always imagined my first patient would be. His eyes light up and I think to myself what a perfect opportunity to do a nuero exam! No, that's not going to happen now. Then I see something wonderful. Something that makes my day, something that reminds me that it's all worthwhile. A smile. Something that we all take for granted.
Then the nurse goes over and gently intertwines her fingers with his and smiles. His eyes open even more and his lips make room for a lovely display of his teeth. She does her normal duties, but talks to him about his family and his favorite interests. When she leaves, I see the Mr. W. I remember.
She was a miracle healer. Did she slip an anti-depressant in his IV bag? Are you a therapist that switched careers? What just happened? I sit down and reflect. The required Yale-blue match my personality precisely. Then I remember why I wanted to become a nurse in the first place. Helping people involves caring about them, not just caring for them.
I walk back into the room 6-420, the one with the "C1 burst facture," sit down in the chair next to him and wait until he's ready to talk. Finally he looks at me. "Mr. W, please tell me who you are. Where are you from? You have cards that say "grandpa," tell me about your family." I leave room 6-420, the room with the individual who has two grandchildren, who's loves to camp, fish and ride his bike. The individual who's been divorced and has been hospitalized for a second suicide attempt due to financial problems and an altercation with his soul mate. And, the patient with hands whose calluses are so chapped that they might scratch you when you shake his hand, if you do. His chart doesn't tell you this, but I can. As I reflect to myself again, my life isn't all that bad. In fact it's pretty great, even with my "cardiac" injury. The next time I walk into room 6-420, I get a smile. I find the edges of my lips racing for my ears and for the first time, I do not take it for granted.
The next week Bob was still there and when I stopped by to say hello, I got an even bigger smile and a "how's my favorite student?" His halo was more symbolic than ever. I passed nursing 101: the duty of a nurse. I find it an obligation to ourselves to know how fortunate we are. No matter the situation, we are at the bedside, not inside the bed. It is also our duty to our patients to improve their lives; not by merely doing nuero exams or administering their medications, but to listen to their stories, to hold their hands and to smile not only at them, but with them. When you do this, you've arrived, and believe me, it's worth it.Last edit by Joe V on Mar 29, '11 : Reason: formatting for easier reading
My name is Ryan Dillon and I am currently enrolled in the R.N. portion of Yale University's direct entry M.S.N./nurse practitioner program (known as the Graduate Entry Prespecialty in Nursing or GEPN). My concentration is the adult psychiatric/mental health specialty.
Joined: Jul '09; Posts: 71; Likes: 8Mar 31, '11Thank you for this nice artivle. True-nurses' see the whole person rather than just the patient.
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