Sharing a Pearl

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    An encounter with a rookie nursing assistant reminds us that your day is as good as you allow it to be. And that not everyone is the solid pillar you think they are.

    The brand new nurse’s assistant is sitting in my office with tears welling over her bright blue eyes. “I…can’t…do…this…” she manages to moan out between sobs. What has gotten her so worked up? Simply an assignment to sit with a belligerent geriatric patient for part of her 8 hour shift. It was apparently a string of profanities aimed at her and a dinner tray launched across the room that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

    I sit beside her. Offer her the box of Kleenex and a drink from the water cooler. She drinks the water and crushes the paper cone with one hand like she’s pretending it’s her troublesome assignment.

    I offer her a few soothing words. It seems to calm her. I tell her a funny anecdote. She smiles and relaxes.

    “I’ll bet you never let anyone rattle you like this.” She finally says, gazing at me with a look of admiration that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

    I know what is going on in her head. She is a young nursing student trying to pay her way through school and get as much experience as possible. She is taking a moment to map her career and she is thinking that maybe, just maybe if she can get through this one bad evening that she will come out a better and stronger person and one day be a great nurse.

    She is looking at me, thinking about my years of experience and current role as ADN and thinking it’s always been this way for me. She wants the same for herself. She is looking for a mentor and someone to show her the way. For the moment that person is me.

    I would hardly think of myself as the perfect role model nurse.

    She doesn’t know that while I’ve been a nurse for many years, I’ve only been doing the job of ADN for 6 months. She didn’t see the time that I hyperventilated because I had a patient that refused to leave and I didn’t know how to handle it. She didn’t see the time I couldn’t adequately staff three units one Sunday evening so I went to hide in the morgue and cry for a little while.

    I assure her that experience is the best teacher. That the good days out number the bad the more experience you have, but also that the bad days never entirely go away. I tell her that attitude is everything and just believing you can handle what is before you is half the battle.

    I’ve given her the right pep talk. Her bright blue eyes are now dry and I can see a bit of a smile coming to her lips.

    “Make up your mind that you are going to have a good day.” I offer her one final pearl of wisdom on her way out the door. It’s just in time too. My phone is ringing with the needs of an entire hospital. It’s nothing I can’t handle. My days of screaming out in frustration when alone in the elevator are few and far between lately. The good days are starting to outnumber the bad.

    I wander by later on. I can hear that the belligerent patient is again spouting a string of profanities that would make a sailor blush. The young assistant looks horrified for just a split second then remembers to decide it’s going to be a good shift. She gently tells the patient to calm down and to speak politely to her. She even tells him that she wants them to have a nice evening together.

    She has strung my pearl of wisdom onto her necklace and is wearing it proudly. Other mentors will come along. Other nurses will offer pearls of wisdom to her along the way. I hope that she will keep stringing them onto the necklace of experience.
    Last edit by Joe V on Mar 22, '11 : Reason: formatting for easier reading
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  2. Visit Flare profile page

    About Flare

    A brief bio about me? Not much to say. I've been a nurse since the turn of the millenium, working in orthopedics, trauma, school nursing and more recently administration. I am a firefighter, was chief on 2009 so herding cats is something I am used to. Ooh.. I also like thunderstorms and writing and the smell of PlayDoh.... but who doesn't?

    Joined: Jul '05; Posts: 3,757; Likes: 11,001

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  3. by   readynow
    Flare, as a brand-new nursing student-to-be, I found your article encouraging and your metaphor of pearls both poetic and inspiring, and I will turn to it again and again to help me through the tough times!
  4. by   cherryames1949
    Hopefully we all have a necklace full of "pearls". Thank you for sharing your story.
  5. by   billyboblewis
    It sounds like this girl had not been exposed to much hardship in her life. Perhaps she was a poor person to pick for this task. Everybody has bad days and has to learn problem solving. Most of the nurse techs...student nurses working in positions similar to to CNA's were able to carry out their jobs without breaking down in tears.
  6. by   Rensoul
    Thanks for sharing this pearl.

    As for other posters implying that a CNA could do their job without breaking into tears, everyone is different and has different things going on in their life. What sets one person off, doesn't even faze another. Personality differences, and the level of experience in dealing with something play a big part of how a person will react to a situation.

    It's nice to see that you gave this student the confidence she needed without 1)fixing it for her 2)babying her 3) discounting the question she was asking.

    I hope, when I graduate and enter the workforce, that I have fellow nurses like you who recognize that I'm not asking for special treatment when I breakdown. I just need someone to let me know that I'm capable of doing this, because for what ever reason, my confidence that I can do so has been shaken.

  7. by   MoreThanAJob
    As another future nurse, this was a great story to read. I agree with the others. I hope that I can find teachers, clinical instructors, nurses, and others that are able and willing to extend a moment of thoughtful wisdom if/when I have my first (or second or third...) breakdown moments in nursing. I'm putting this story on my necklace.
  8. by   kookiepumpkin
    All of us have had to deal with patients like that before and know how it feels. We are only humans! That's why it is so important to work as a team and take turns taking care of difficult patients and give each other encouragement. I've had a few people like "Flare" in my professional and personal life that have helped me to go on .