There are many faces of healthcare and each role is very different, even under the same credentials (nurse, doctor, etc). There are many wonderful things that health providers experience, and many not so great things. The stories we have are many and range in emotion from gut-busting laughter to tear jerking. Sometimes we work superbly as a team, and other times not so much. There is an underlying lack of ability to communicate what we do, what things hinder our jobs, and such on the job without potential repercussions. The purpose of this series, “The Many Faces of Healthcare,” is to shine a light on the many roles of the healthcare worker (from housekeeping to physicians), their stories, their frustrations, create a conversation that we are unable to do within the workplace, and to help educate others to help us create the best care teams possible. I want to note that in this I am considering the patient as part of the care team, as they should be.
These entries are guest written by individuals who explain their experiences in their own words. Their experiences are personal to them. Understand that we may touch on sensitive subjects from time to time but let’s please keep the conversation civil even with disagreements. However, I would love to see a good conversation going with these posts, even if only to acknowledge the guest writer for their work.
Without further ado, the first guest writer is the lovely Kate (See the bottom of the post for links to her social media and blog! Check it out!). She is a respiratory nurse in a British hospital.
It’s hard to pick one story out of so many experiences, I find I’m often drawn to death and dying, maybe because it’s one of the most impactful, tragic and unique experiences we have to go through daily as nurses. So although I seem to write a lot about it, I think this will be a little more about the experience of being a nurse in the whole, though the amount of work I do in day I don’t think I will be able to fit in one story. This particular shift handover is an amalgamation of many shifts.
Five in the morning I’m apprehensive, which isn’t unusual for many a nurse (and/or many other professions). I feel utter dread at the thought of going to work. I know this is rather depressing but it’s hard to explain the absolute love/hate relationship nurses have with their job. At the hospital I pull up on the side of the busy road where I regularly park. Traffic slowly buzzes past my car and I laugh at the comedic dark thought that jut drifted through my head, something about if I were hit by a car. The hospital would be ringing to ask me when I could get back to work before I had even left the emergency department.
I can feel my stomach grumbling, as I stupidly haven’t eaten breakfast. This early in the morning I just can’t eat without feeling sick, so I just don’t. The feeling isn’t just hunger, it’s concern and anxiety. How is the day going to be? Will we have enough staff? Will I get put in the bay with the biggest work load for the third time in a row? Will I have to do CPR today? Will I give bad news? Will there be many people going home? What will I learn? Will I make a mistake? My head is packed with millions of thoughts flitting in and out of my mind.
A few of us stand around in a small office, not many people today. We will be sharing our axillary nurses, who will be pulled in a million different directions. I walk into my bay, there are three different packs of people. Two groups are congregated around the two beds at the end, and I can see a group with the curtains pulled partially around one of the beds at the front of the bay. We have two very poorly patients my colleague says, both are on non-invasive ventilation (NIV), both have chronic obstructive lung disease, one seems to be getting better, and one seems to be getting worse.
The lady that is seeming to get worse, is on observation every fifteen minutes. I look over the bed at the lady and smile. A very old pair of big brown eyes look back as she flashes a weak smile. Her family all look dreadful, as they see us they anxiously ask if we can try her on the bed pan. I nod and smile. “That will be fine we will just finish the hand over and we will get to her,” I say, “I’ll try and get an auxiliary to help me.” They are thankful.
We move on to the next lady who is having a break from her NIV, she’s smiling and laughing with her family, most of whom seem much more well rested than the previous family. She is much better now and her oxygen levels are improving and blood gases are improving. Overnight she had been much more like the first lady, my heart feels better, and I remind myself that out first lady will get through. I make a quick wish for her.
Another two ladies in the bay are also on Intravenous (IV) antibiotics. These two ladies are much healthier than the previous two, one is pulling her drip along to go and get herself dressed. She’s a really pretty elderly lady with mousy features and a lovely smile.
“Do you need anything?” I ask her as she passes by.
Smiling back with a sad smile, “No, I’m fine dear. You have a lot of work to do.”
She’s right I do, but I don’t want her to go without because of my work load. I can see she has no towels, so I make a note to quickly nab some for her and check she is ok after finishing handover.
The next lady I have looked after over the past two weeks, she has a huge smile across her face.
“Hello lovely!” getting up off her bed she gives me a massive bear hug. Being a larger lady she squeezes me until I squeak. “I’m going home!” She clasps her hands over her mouth with glee, “And the doctor said I can go to Florida for my daughter’s wedding!”
“Thank god!” I laugh with her, I move out of her grasp smiling widely, “We would have never heard the end of it if they had said no!”
Playfully she hits my shoulder laughing,
“I’m not that grumpy,” laughing hard, she does a little dance on the spot. I join in laughing.
“Go and get a wash so you can get going then!” I add, as she gathers her things and skips off towards the shower room. I quickly make a note to get her discharge papers and medication sorted out, after I have got everyone washed and dressed.
We get to the last lady who is behind the curtain with her family. I hear the beep of her syringe driver, quietly poking out from under the pillow. This lady has a lot of family surrounding her, they look worse than the first lady’s family did. I can see that the old man sitting next to her holding her hand has been crying. He looks like my grandad, and she looks like my grandma. He looks away from me, he doesn’t want me to know he’s sad. Pictures surround her bed of them when they were younger getting married, with young children and going on holiday. It makes me sad too, but I don’t cry, I don’t want to look like I can’t cope. This lady should have a side room so she can die with more dignity, but there are none left. The smell of old coffee from the tea tray drifts around my head. It’s mixed with the eerie clinically clean smell, which is at every hospital.
“I’ll get that!” I say, manoeuvring around family members and squishing myself against the wall to get to it.
“You should be a contortionist!” The lady says, with a tired laugh.
“I know there’s never enough space!” I grin at her, I have heard the joke many a time before, but I humour her, maybe it gives her a bit of relief.
Wandering off with the syringe driver under my arm, I know I have a hard day ahead, but I have this feeling in my stomach because I know I’m making a difference. I’m hopeful and determined to try and get my ladies that are ill better. I’m sad because I know one of my ladies is going to pass away, and her family is going to be devastated. I’m happy because I know I am sending one lady home who deserves to see her daughter get married in Florida, and I am motivated to patch all of their problems, if I can. I have a reason for being here.
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