Restablishing professional distance

  1. One of the very important skills that I have been taught as a nusring student is professional distance - the tool that keeps you from getting too attached to your patients in case you were to - God forbid - loose them to death. I feel that this is very important to my professionalism.
    My question lies in this situation - I have a Pediatric patient - a 17 year old girl, K , who suffered severe burns to her face and head from an unfortunate accident with a candle in her home. She was disfigured and very depressed to the point of refusing treatment and trying to take what was left of her own life. At the urging of both her parents, (both are Doctors) I was able to reach her - but I did it by going beyond my normal empathy for any Kiddo - I in desparation shared a piece of my own past life that I had always wanted to keep locked away inside myself - memories of my 5 1/2 months in a burn unit and rehab - pictures of me burned almost beyond recognition over 20 years ago, and of my step by step come back into a new life and much later - a nursing student as a second career just wanting to help people like her know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Begging her not to be the first patient that I loose- Showing her that life goes on and time heals has helped her along and out of the hospital and back home. However, in doing this I lost that "professional distance" and have become quite attached much as if I had adopted another daughter. In the future, I would like to know how I can be equally as effective without giving access to my personal life. It was very painfull to open up those old wounds - to share those feelings that once myself I doubted that I would ever be fully human looking again, or able to have a life outside of a hospital ward. I want to help other kiddos like K, but I can't bear to re-live this over and over again. What works best people - please share your experience and knowledge with this old "rookie" in the nursing world. Thanks!
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    About royr

    Joined: Apr '05; Posts: 151; Likes: 12
    School Nurse; from US
    Specialty: 2 year(s) of experience in school nursing

    3 Comments

  3. by   annmariern
    Chances are that will be the last time you have to; sometimes I think we are each others angels. The right person, the right time, the right place. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, its perfect. You were just what she needed when; Had similar experiences myself. It's not often but I am 100% sure she was so glad you were there when she needed you. Maybe no-one else could have been in quite the same way.
  4. by   jahra
    Quote from annmariern
    Chances are that will be the last time you have to; sometimes I think we are each others angels. The right person, the right time, the right place. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, its perfect. You were just what she needed when; Had similar experiences myself. It's not often but I am 100% sure she was so glad you were there when she needed you. Maybe no-one else could have been in quite the same way.
    So true! We have many lessons in life and learn from others.
    For a young patient to have a nurse who was also a person who
    shared a similar experience , able to understand her feelings
    and fears. You are an angel to this patient and have given the
    gift of hope and reassurance to her.

    It is entirely your call as to who, when, where, or ever to share
    your background. Your choice to share met your goal to help
    patients who are burn victims to see that there is light at
    the end of the tunnel.

    If we did not fully help our patients and feel for their struggle we would be no more than nurse robots.

    I do not know how it is for burn unit RNs, but in psychiatric nursing
    we had supervision to discuss cases and our personal response
    to them . It may help for you to go for private counseling
    for a few sessions to discuss this case. I found a nurse clinician
    and found a few sessions very enlightening when I was struggling
    with a situation where a client committed suicide. We were all
    close to the client and there was no indication to the family so
    we lost the opportunity to try intervention...........

    You and your patient are in my thoughts and prayers.........
  5. by   snowfreeze
    I am a brain injury survivor so I do share occasionally with patients and/or families. Depends on the situation and my mind set. Sometimes just doing my job as a nurse is all that is needed. Ever had an old couple really not wanting to allow anyone into their life, then you know the people I am taling about. They are like identical twins after 50 plus years of marriage.

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