The Many Faces of Healthcare: Introduction and Guest writer Kate, Respiratory Nurse

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.

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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.

Follow the lovely Kate at:

Blog: https://whatisnormalfor.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Whatisnormalfor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katgoo27/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kate__whatisnormal/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/whatisnormalfor/

Gift ideas for the nurse in your life:

Challenged! Would you rather…

I was tagged in a blog challenge by the incomparable @Geraldine_Talks at http://geraldinetalks.com/would-you-rather-tag/ I love these challenges because I answer questions that lets you know more about me! Fair warning, I AM a dork and a weirdo (not in the creepy sense, unless you count nursing humor. However, nursing humor is a prerequisite for being able to handle being a nurse, but I doubt this post it going to get into THAT right now). Without further ado:

THE RULES:
• Answer the questions given to you by your nominator
• Make up your own questions and tag others!


MY QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

  1. Would you rather have the ability to fly or breathe underwater?
    I would prefer to fly. It would be even better if I could breathe in space so that way I could visit places such as the seven sisters, or the crab or horse head nebulae.
  2. Would you rather live alone forever surrounded by all the books you can read or surrounded by (tame) animals?
    This is probably the hardest question on here for me. HMM. I would probably choose books, although either way I would definitely miss the other option. I love the unconditional love that animals give and are entirely entertaining on their own, but I love what you can learn and the places you can go in your imagination with books.
  3. Would you rather have big feet or big hands?
    I already have big feet for my size (I’m 5’ 1” or just under 155 cm), so that is an easy question for me. I’d stay the way I am! I have really small hands and what would be normal size feet if I was about half a foot taller.
  4. Would you rather drink coffee or tea for the rest of your life?
    I would definitely choose coffee. It’s coffee in the morning, coffee in the afternoon and coffee in the evening for me! In nursing school, I was joined in by another student in which we were termed “The Coffee IV Twins” because we were always drinking coffee! (Shout out Kathryn!). It is literally my favorite thing to drink.
  5. Would you rather be hairless (and I mean hairless, including your eyelashes and eyebrows) or very hairy?
    I would rather be hairy than to have no eyebrows and eyelashes. I already grow hair very fast so it wouldn’t amount to a huge difference with upkeep! Haha! (TMI?)
  6. Would you rather have unlimited sushi for life or unlimited tacos for life?
    No brainer here! Tacos all day every day! Even better if they were guaranteed not to make you gain weight, I would just about it only tacos! (I’m also a big Italian food fan).
  7. Would you rather know when you are going to die or how you are going to die?
    I plead the fifth here.
  8. Would you rather be permanently live 500 years in the future or 500 years in the past?
    500 years in the future. No going back, only moving forward!!!
  9. Would you rather get 1 free round trip international plane ticket every year or be able to fly domestic anytime for free?
    Difficult question, but I’d probably choose domestic anytime for free because United States of America has pretty much every climate and a lot of wonders, plus family, to visit. Although, I have a few countries I do intend on visiting eventually.
  10. Would you rather be toothless or go bald?
    That’s easy! Bald. Imagine all the awesome hairstyles I can wear without ANY hairstyling time in the morning. Toothless would suck because dentures are quite a pain in the ass (I would know, nurse here!) If I was toothless I wouldn’t get dentures, I’d spring for the implants because… no. Not happening.

What would your answers be?

MY QUESTIONS FOR YOU

  1. Would you rather have only one book to read for the rest of your life, or only one movie to watch?
  2. Would you rather have picture perfect memory without a degree, or have a PhD already accomplished?
  3. Would you rather get perfect knowledge from a blue rhino where people would call you crazy, or imperfect knowledge from a professor (but being socially accepted)?
  4. Would you rather have the highest number of views on your blog but without connecting, or a few views where your content hits home for the audience?
  5. Would you rather read or write for the rest of your life?
  6. Would you rather dress in 20’s-40’s fashion or today’s fashion (minus the restrictions imposed by 20’s-40’s regarding clothes).
  7. Would you rather participate in a murder mystery (like a dinner production) or write one?
  8. Would you rather be a famous writer for your blog or for books? If for books, what genre(s)?
  9. Would you rather eat sweets or salty food?
  10. Would you rather move to a foreign country to learn their language, or learn their language before visiting?

I am tagging (Be sure to check out these lovely ladies blogs!)

Jenni at https://housewifehustle.blog/

Each of the trio of lovely ladies (ALJ) at https://mylifelines.co

Telia at https://lifewithtelia.com

Rachel at https://myspottedblog.com

Millie at https://msblife.home.blog

Angela at https://hidingbehindbooksblog.wordpress.com

Melissa at https://worksuckschronicles.com

XO

How Failing Nursing School Made Me a Better Person and Nurse

Everyone faces failure at some point in their lives. It can be something that can make or break you. You can use it to grow, or to become a more fearful version of yourself. One of the times of greatest growth for me was when I spectacularly failed nursing school. Now mind you, I am generally a straight A student. Prior to that occasion, I had never failed a class in my life. I was one of those annoying people who could never have a high enough grade because I expected so much from myself. To be honest, a lot of my identity had to do with being that honors student because in my youth that was the only time I had attention, interaction and friends. It became like a monster hiding in my closet.

A Little History…

In my second quarter of nursing school I fell, and the back of my head was the first to impact the ground. Disoriented, I laughed off my clumsy moment and went home to sleep off my headache. The next day I got ready for class, and it started just as a headache. Dang it, I hope this goes away soon, I thought. I had always been prone to sporadic migraines. During class, however, my senses went out of control. The light was intensified to where the details of the room blurred nearly out of vision. The teacher’s voice echoed and felt like screaming in my head. I ended up going to the clinical instructor, and she took my blood pressure and listened to my symptoms. I left early that day to the doctors where I found out I had a concussion. My symptoms, including sudden extreme dizziness, would not go away until a year later.

Back to failing nursing school…

During the months following my concussion, I had a very hard time keeping up remembering anything long enough to take a test. Somehow, I passed second and third quarter with a 3.7 GPA each regardless of my struggles. I had to learn how to work with my brain since the way it processed, learned and expressed had changed after the concussion. Fourth quarter proved to be my kryptonite. It was the most disorganized mess of a quarter. The teachers had it so poorly structured that every student had issues with trying to find the information they needed, and there were places where information would greatly contradict itself. In my clinical, I administered medications under the belief that it was permitted during that particular clinical. I was wrong. In my nursing program that is an immediate failure due to liability issues.

At first, I was mad. I blamed the lack of organization and my concussion for my failure. After my initial reaction, however, I began to feel ultimately humbled. I had complete control over whether or not I passed. I needed to have organized myself better. If there were any questions regarding the contradicting information I should have been more proactive at getting a solid answer from the teachers about what the correct info was. I also had to look at the initial embarrassingly childish reaction of blaming everything outside of me for my failure. Although there may have been contributing factors towards my failure, I am the one who failed to rise above the challenge.

Looking at the way I handled my initial reaction, I decided that this aspect of my character needed to change. Not only would this hinder my nursing career, it is a terrible character flaw in my own personality. If there is one thing my mama taught me was if I didn’t like something about myself I have the power to change it. By being able to be honest with myself and to see my flaws in all its ugliness, I was able to take on that challenge. Therefore, it made me a better person.

By recognizing what aspects I lack in, in this case taking disorganized information and translating it into an organized system I could follow, I was able to begin incorporating new organizing strategies. I am continually trying new things to help improve my organization even more. I also lightened up and realized that although knowing the information was important, I did not have to receive solid A’s to be worthwhile. It was funny, though, because the only person I had that requirement of was myself. I was setting myself up to feel bad about myself, and I didn’t need to do that.

I passed nursing school the second time around, and I am currently working as a registered nurse. Due to my experience with failing, I have become more aware of my other shortcomings. By knowing these, I have enacted strategies to avoid my own personal pitfalls.

While failing anything can be a horribly embarrassing thing to go through, it is a chance to learn more about yourself and what you failed at. The perspective you have about failure will determine what you can do about it. All journeys have stumbling blocks that are actually opportunities to become greater: a greater person, a greater nurse, a greater writer… It is important to take the time to feel your emotions, but don’t stay there. Move. Failure isn’t something to be ashamed of, it is a step closer to you being the best version of yourself possible.

Have you experienced a failure that ended up creating a better life in the long run? Are you in the middle of having failed something? Leave a comment below to get a conversation going to support each other’s growth, or to be an inspiration for someone going through what you’ve already conquered!

The Ugly Christmas Sweater

There is an ugly side to Christmas for many people. For those who lost loved ones, or experience depression, or have a lack of supportive loved ones, this may be a very difficult time of the year. It hangs and weighs on them like a heavy blanket, and they wear it everywhere they go.

This is my first Christmas without my brother, who loved Christmas very much. We would spend hours putting up decorations. The wave of grief I have and am feeling is quite profound. I have never truly understood or had adequate compassion for those who are/have gone through this until now. It is something in your wildest imagination you cannot comprehend. It is also different for everyone and with each grieving experience.

I have sat down so many times to write so many different posts this month, and I have been wanting to keep everything really positive (and I promise to get back to positive posts!) but I don’t think the writer’s block will go away until I get this off my chest.

People in healthcare deal with grieving and loss at much higher rates than anyone else. We get close to our patients and grieve when they pass on. For those reading who work or have worked in healthcare, I know you understand what I’m talking about. For those who are unfamiliar with the trials and tribulations of healthcare, this is a dark reality. To the individuals who have it in them to work hospice, where they are guaranteed to lose their favorite patient every. Single. Time. Hats off to you, because I could not do it.

Grief does not always mean losing a loved one. Grief can come from divorce, losing a job, or anything that you considered part of your identity. Perhaps you just graduated college and you don’t know who you are outside of being a student. Any one of these may cause the holiday blues.

Ways to cope:

Let yourself grieve! Allow the time for you to go through your feelings. Just as I have taken a short sabbatical from blog posting, you may need to slow down for a little while. In order to deal with your grief, you have to allow yourself to move through your emotions, not run from them. Not that there are moments that you may need to numb yourself if the pain is way to great, but hopefully that is not something that needs to occur. If you feel as though you need to numb the pain, be sure to seek medical help.

If someone is grieving around you… the best thing you can do is allow them to express when they need to, but don’t force it either. Support does not mean having to constantly cheer them up, but doing something silly to make them laugh when they are pulling out of a hard moment can be uplifting as well. Read the person and allow them what they need to do. In order for them to work through their grief to get to a point of being able to function and deal, they need to go through these moments.

You can grieve and have fun at the same time. This sounds counter-intuitive BUT sometimes the best thing you can do is laugh and have people around you that make you feel lighter. If you lost a loved one, you know they would want you to have a great life, not drowning in sadness. You can miss a loved one and find your fun again. If you do, it will help your mental health in the long run!

Please remember that although this is a magical time of the year, it does not mean that every single person is able to dwell on the good. Try to remember when you see someone moody in the grocery store, or sad in the clothing store. Maybe smile at them, wish them a merry Christmas/happy holidays, or give them a compliment (only if you mean it, nothing worse than an insincere compliment when you already feel like sh*t). Everyone has their trials. If we could support one another instead of continuing to tear them down, like society teaches us to do, our world would be a much better place.

Are you grieving something this Christmas? Have you ever experienced a Christmas in grief? Tell me about it! Let’s get a conversation going…

The 12 days of Blogmas…

There is a challenge going around for bloggers to answer a set of 12 questions. Although I was not directly asked, the ladies at http://www.Thevalueofamoment.com and http://www.Geraldinetalks.com both asked for more bloggers to join in the fun. So, here are my answers to the 12 questions of Blogmas!

  1. When are you starting up the Christmas music?

I love Christmas so much, I will sometimes have a moment in summer where I begin playing it, but generally around Thanksgiving time is when I begin. Yes, I already began listening in November!

2. Decorations are a requirement for Christmas, when do you plan on decorating?

I have already begun. I plan to go ALL out with decorations this year! The more the merrier!

3. What’s your favorite Christmas movie to watch?

This one is kind of hard. I have quite a few: White Christmas, the claymation version of Rudolph the Rednosed Raindeer. This year I think I have one in particular I want to watch, I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Jessica Biel), out of nostalgia of watching it with my brother.

4. Any traditions or activities you plan on doing this month?

Definitely decorating! I’m hoping to get a little baking in, but I will be mainly working a lot this month.

5. The holiday season is all about food, or in this case all the desserts.  So, what is your favorite holiday sweet?

I love Egg Nog, gingerbread cookies, pumpkin bread, and shortbread cookies. I’m usually the only one who likes Egg Nog so I buy myself a quart sized Egg Nog and drink it little at a time. If it is only me that is going to drink it, sometimes I will drink it straight from the carton.

6. So, would you rather give gifts, receive gifts, or both?

I like both as long as the gifts given to me do not have expectations tied to them. I rather not receive gifts than to receive ones with conditions. However, I love to give gifts to those closest to me. I do not generally do “Christmas gifts” as I tend to give gifts throughout the year. For me, Christmas is year-round!

  1. Do you have a favorite holiday smell? (Ex. Candles, food, etc.)

Food cooking or things baking in the oven is a wonderful smell. There is also this great scent that has many notes like cinnamon and spices that when I smell it I think of Christmas without fail. I do not know the entire combination to be able to share it on here, sadly.

8. Would you rather have a white Christmas or a Sunny Christmas?

I love white Christmases, but as I will be working I hope if we get snow it is a very small amount so the mountainous hill I live on will be easy driving still.

9. What is your favorite holiday song?

Tough one. I am such a music person I always have favorites depending on my mood. Top five, though, are: The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole, Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s First Snow, Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Michael Buble Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Amy Grant Sleigh Ride.

10. Would you rather have a real Christmas Tree or a fake one?

I like fake ones for a couple great reasons: No needles to clean up, no watering, no fire hazard, and you can keep it up longer! If I am feeling particularly keen to have the scent of a fresh tree, I can either walk outside or use a royal pine-scented tree car freshener. Yes, I said it! No shame in my game.

11. When wrapping present do they look picture perfect or look horrible?  (If they look picture perfect share your secrets at present wrapping.)

I take great care to make them picture perfect. This means I take extra time to wrap each gift. In order to get crisp lines, I crease against the edges. I always use double-sided sticky tape so that my tape is always invisible. I use fancy wired ribbons that I am able to twist and combine other ribbons. I secure them with that double-sided sticky tape and I make sure that every aspect of the gift wrapping is color coordinated and brings multi-textures. I also like to match the style of paper to the person so that it is a style they particularly like.

***EDIT***

Due to requests to see my wrapping, I have added it here. Please be aware I was wrapping these in a time crunch (wrapped all three in 5-10 minutes) with very little options for paper/ribbon/etc.

12. What do you plan to do on Christmas?

I plan on working! After work I plan on having a nice dinner with my Mama and watch TV. I will have every twinkle light on inside and outside of my place and I will shamelessly keep the decorations up as long as possible.

 

Photo credit: Jill Wellington of Michigan, USA.