Isn't it known that the only constant we can count on in life is change? With over three decades of nursing experience, choosing one point of my career to discuss where I have changed my focus is difficult as there have been many. My professional career has consistently been changing with and without conscious effort. The Healthcare industry has been and continues to change. As advancement of technology and knowledge increases, treatment plans change, and therefore care changes, and it is never ending.
Changes in career didn't start once I was officially a nurse. Changes in careers began while still a student and rotating through the many areas of care that I found fascinating, challenging, and rewarding. While in the clinical study of surgery, I knew I wanted to be an OR nurse. The daily differences in types of procedures I would assist with, and culminating in the ultimate observance of an open heart surgery, was so incredibly awesome to my young eyes, that I could not imagine anything could or would surpass my experience in the Operating Room.
A few more rotations proved me right, until I went to the Pediatric unit. The kids and the heartfelt emotion I felt for a sick child was beyond recognition or description. My heart was engaged and forever changed. Gone was the excitement of seeing inside the physical body in the cold atmosphere of the operating room, and in came the warmth, the nurturing, and the compassion that I instinctively knew was what nursing truly was about for me.
Pediatric nursing is what occupied my career for the next 15 years: Transitioning from floor to PICU and then the Peds ER. During that time frame I didn't change specialties, because working with the children fulfilled me. But change still occurred as I traveled throughout the US, as a Travel nurse, and then went out of the country to experience health care from different cultural perspectives. Each change, each patient, each incredible moment, was a constant gift of learning, loving and spiritual connection that is difficult for me to put into words.
Eventually life circumstances took me to adult nursing. At first I was reminded on a daily basis why I did NOT work with adults. Suffice it to say that this was a whole different ballgame, and many days I was unsure if I wanted to be on this team. My philosophy in life is that we are always where we are supposed to be, even if we don't think we are. So I accepted, and opened up to making it a beneficial experience for both myself and the patients. I obviously had something very important to learn. Having a crystal ball, would have been nice, because if I had had one, I may not have complained as much about the lack of gratitude, the increased level of chronic issues, the ignorance of adults in general when it came to their own health, the overwhelming abuse of the system, and yes, certain odors that adults seem to carry which I never noticed with the kids.
Emergency rooms full of sick adults were very different than emergency rooms full of kids. And one day, overwhelmed with frustration, disgust, fear and exhaustion, when my shift ended I left the ER that night, knowing I would never go back. My career was ready for another drastic change. I would be open for something very new.
Few months later, I found myself at the entrance to a local Hospice company. I asked myself what road brought me here, at this door of the unknown, and honestly, I couldn't answer. All I was sure of, was that here I was, and something greater than what I know, led me to this place. I was hired without hesitation and little did I know how incredibly easily I would fit into this aspect of nursing and life that I had not even considered previously.
Can you imagine the change for me transitioning from an ER where we automatically, in auto pilot would jump on someone's chest, pump them full of drugs, and shock them repeatedly to keep them from dying to an atmosphere where we provide comfort and compassion, in allowing people to die with dignity, without pain, and in their own way? Once again I felt like I had been honored with the gifts of those people who bravely headed into the new chapter of their life, by leaving this one, in peace.
I could write a book about how much of an honor it is to be a part of a person's last days on this earth plane. It is an intimate time and I don't take it lightly. I am happy to say that I don't understand what it is like, but I have been given the gift of the stories and the experiences of those dying, to know that leaving this world is as easy as letting go of all the material, physical emotional boundaries we set up around us. The Human vessel holds our spirit, and until we can let go of this shell, our spirit is stuck. Many a patient at the very end of their lives, state that they are no longer in pain. They only feel free. Once they completely give in to that freedom, they are gone from this earth plain.
Somewhere in between all of this my interest in Complimentary and Alternative Medicine has taught me that integration of the body, mind and Spirit is imperative to anyone's overall health. My whole outlook and philosophy of nursing, and medicine took a new direction.
I eventually began to work with our older adults. What wisdom and freedom they exhibit at this time in their lives, as they have done what they came here to do. And want to live their lives out with experiencing fun and joy every day. Yet they cannot be forgotten. They have so much to offer and if you think about change, our senior population have experienced and were key players in all the changes that have occurred during their lifetime. The seniors are valuable components of our society. Presently I know many who continue to be active in their communities well into their 80's.
Change? Gone are the days when someone who had a gallbladder removed has a long extended stay in the hospital. Gone are the days when a joint replacement laid in bed for several days post op. Gone are the days that childbirth allows a mom to stay in hospital for days to recuperate. These rehabilitative days are now done in either acute care faculties, or at home.
As I have already started, Health care as we know it, is constantly and continually changing, and along with it, are careers for Nurses, and the opportunities grow and expand in direct correlation with the growth and expansion of the industry. Happily, I continue to grow and expand right along with it!
Theresa Healy, RN, CCH, HHC