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So sad. How in the HECK do you do it?!

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I'm not going to lie, although I was inspired by selfless nurses and the prospect of doing something practical that truly helps people, the main reason I'm entering a nursing program is that it's safe. I'm an artistic person. I'd rather finish my liberal arts degree and move to Hollywood and be a producer. That's not gonna happen. So I picked what is in the family- medicine. And I picked something that will allow me to relocate (travel nursing). And this career will help service my occasional feelings of guilt, because I will be really helping people.

Anyway I got outta the hospital a few days ago. I had a pneumothorax. I was in there for four days. My lung was 40% collapsed. I had a chest tube and it sucked a lot. I've since quit smoking (I'm a 20yr skinny male). I heard a lot of throwing up and moaning from other rooms, and it wrenched my heart. I felt so sad for the others. I felt sad for myself, too (now I feel lucky that I'm out and maybe I have hope of it not recurring!)

My friend has recently discovered he is HIV+. His T Cell count is 43! He was struggling with a painful skin... thing... all over his body from a fungus in his stomach/intestines. That same fungus has now caused a severe impaction. Also, his kidneys have failed. And all this before he has even progressed to AIDs (hopefully he won't......)

Found all that out today and visited him today. The way he looks... I'm so saddened. I want to cry forever and I am so disappointed in life...

Nurses see this stuff everyday and I'm already crumbling from my first lengthy hospital stay etc. ... then again I do commend myself for appearing strong on the outside and putting on a smile and trying to help.

Do I sound too weak to do this? How do you handle it all?

Let me say first, that your sensitivity to the suffering of others will turn out to be a plus - if you can learn to manage it and channel it. My short answer to the question is that you handle it by focusing on doing your job and bringing your skills to bear on helping others. In my experience the worst place to be is a helpless bystander to someone else's misery. I have a much harder time watching a painful procedure than doing one. When I am involved in doing something for a patient, my focus is on the job at hand, doing what needs to be done, bringing my skill and knowledge to the task of meeting the patient's needs. But when I am a spectator, I haven't got that focus, so I am dwelling on the patient's discomfort instead - much tougher.

One other note: I was not someone who felt any great spiritual calling to be a nurse. I made the decision to do it for very practical reasons. But, over time, the sense of mission - of vocation in the old fashioned sense - grew. After thirty years doing it I have a deep sense of commitment to being a nurse, to my profession and my patients. It is now the essence of who and what I am.

I totally agree with Chico. Your empathy is what makes you different from other nurses who are just in it for the paycheck. You really care, and that will make the care that you give your patients that much better. I feel the way that you're feeling too sometimes, I just remember to put on a smiling face, listen to my patients and help them in anyway I can. Sometimes you can't stop the disease process but you can ease their pain and especially help their emotional status by being there for them and being the best nurse you can be. I also found it helpful (if at best a little selfish) to pick a unit where you feel connected to the patients, but don't feel emotionally drained. So maybe instead of hospice or anything where your patients are extremely sick, perhaps operating room, labor and delivery or something like that. You might find you like that, and even if you don't, something such as these units to get your feet wet and then eventually care for sicker patients when you feel more comfortable. Just remember - - you're doing a wonderful, extremely rewarding thing, and you might find that you come home every day happy that you helped someone in a great and profound way. Stick with it! :)

Tait, MSN, RN

Specializes in Acute Care Cardiac, Education, Prof Practice. Has 14 years experience.

It's a lot easier to handle when you have the power to help those who are suffering :)

nurse2033, MSN, RN

Specializes in ER, ICU.

I would have been more likely to be elected President than become a nurse when I was 20, heck I can't even remember that far back. When you are the professional it is all different, you've been hammered by personal stuff. Take honest stock of your abilities and interests and pursue what you want to do. I became a nurse at 40, so can you. Or after 20 years of nursing you can produce a kick-*** medical drama. Good luck.

The experience of a patient vs the nurse is very different. From the outside looking in I can totally see how it might look like a miserable place to work, people are in pain, sometimes we see them at the worst time in their lives. I remember being in labor (the old fashion way, no epidural for me) And I asked my nurse "why would you ever want to work here, we are all miserable!!" Well when I had my OB rotation it was very different, and you are able to see it from a whole different perspective. You have empathy for people, it will help you gain insight to what your patient is experiencing and be a valuable asset in your nursing career.

Couldn't agree more with the previous posts. I definitely have always viewed my job more from the scientific/medical standpoint, but my bottom line is: if I wasn't here to help would they be in better hands? So, I just strive to make sure that's not likely. I've worked ER and Trauma I ICU, this is what gets me through the hard days. Like all "dirty jobs" someone's gotta do it, might as well be me :) Thanks for the appreciation!!!

DizzyLizzyNurse

Specializes in Peds Medical Floor. Has 12 years experience.

I think it's also more difficult when it's a friend/family member vs a stranger.

joanna73, BSN, RN

Specializes in geriatrics.

People touch you in different ways. I feel privileged to care for and comfort the ill and the dying. However, some experiences can be emotionally hard. Over the last few nights, I have cared for a resident who has been declining. I've known her for 4 months. Her decline was sudden, and although I was glad to be with her, it was also heart wrenching to watch her die.

When I left this morning, I kissed her goodbye, and said, "I'm glad to know you. Take care on your journey. I'll think of you today."

I'm off for a few days. I know I won't see her again. She will probably hang on long enough to see her family. As I write this, she is probably gone. I've experienced many deaths. Some are harder than others. That's the way it is.

I'm not going to lie, although I was inspired by selfless nurses and the prospect of doing something practical that truly helps people, the main reason I'm entering a nursing program is that it's safe. I'm an artistic person. I'd rather finish my liberal arts degree and move to Hollywood and be a producer. That's not gonna happen. So I picked what is in the family- medicine. And I picked something that will allow me to relocate (travel nursing).

The quote that made me laugh was "I had a chest tube and it sucked a lot!" :D

You can find the creativity in nursing and use it to write screenplays and novels....it's been done...also in daily nursing life. A better way to do that complex dressing..thinking outside the box is what it's all about. That and keeping a sense of humor even when there are tears in your eyes and heart.

Edited by nola1202
wrong quote came out highlighted, looked like an insensitive jerk!

you deal with it because you're the one helping to ease those people's pain and suffering. having compassion to what they're going through is what drives you to work so hard to alleviate if not stop it. there was a time when i said i would NEVER and could never be a nurse bc of the things you've described. that blows my mind now. i thought people were lying when they said, "do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life" until i entered nursing. is it entirely true? no. it is work and it does get stressful/hard, but at the end of the day i feel good about what i've done and can't imagine doing anything else. there really are times when i think to myself, "i can't believe i'm getting paid (and well) for this."