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Nurses Week

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As a little girl, my very favorite person in the world was my Nana. She was brave and beautiful and bold, and she made me feel special every time I saw her. She let me wear her make up and ride around the house in her wheelchair, and she gave me my first nursing job. My Nana was paraplegic, and I have vivid memories of being unnaturally eager to empty her catheter, or set up her transfer board, or push her wheelchair… and she patiently allowed it.
At the age of 7 or 8 I knew…I wanted to be a nurse, just like my mom. When I was a little older I found out about all the gross stuff nurses did and changed my career goals very quickly, until it started to sound like a pretty secure option again around high school. I wanted to work with children and go on missions trips and save the world. My picture of nursing was giving shots in a tent somewhere scorchingly hot or applying tourniquets to bloody limbs and saving people who were incessantly grateful…. Because people love people who save lives, right? People love nurses… right? So now I am 26 years old, and I have been an ICU nurse for five years, and I guess I’m a little more….aware. There are a million tiny pieces of nursing that no one warns you about. A million tiny facets that medical shows can’t portray. A million unspoken truths that the non-nurses of the world can’t possibly understand. And suddenly, I’m not the little girl emptying my grandmother’s catheter anymore, I’m the scared new nurse who has to start an IV, and the patient is disappointed and angry that I had to stick him twice. I’m not the eager nursing student spending an hour with the sweet old lady who needs help eating, I’m the by default “seasoned” nurse, doing strange and extraordinary things to keep people alive…or kind of alive, I’m not really sure…And most of the people I care for aren’t incessantly grateful. In fact, they’re upset and they’re hurting, and they need someone to blame, and their family members don’t understand why after all these extraordinary things I’ve done…they aren’t better. The million tiny pieces like this are the majority, hurting people and sad outcomes and misplaced blame.
Every so often, there are pieces that are precious and good and reminiscent of all the reasons people become nurses, whether it’s the family member that thanks you for helping their loved one die without pain, or the patient being kept alive by ten machines who walks up to the ICU months later to express their gratitude…but these tiny pieces are rare in comparison.

And then…there are the tiny pieces that are my favorite… and they sustain me…
I never realized these tiny pieces came with nursing, and I never dreamed they would be the most rewarding part…
I’m talking about the other nurses. The nurses that become your greatest friends and inspirations, the role models and the teachers, and the ones who hold your hand through the weird, crazy, jagged, uncomfortable, beautiful insanity that is nursing. Without the family of nurses that forms around you, you are nothing. So thank you fellow nurses. You all are the best part of my profession. You all are the anchor that keeps healthcare human, and you all create meaning during the chaos of protocols and policies and government reimbursements. You all continue to give care that is driven by compassion rather than money, and you all continue to give healing in a place that is broken.

So here’s to my Nana for teaching me my first nursing skills, and to my mom for inspiring me and making this profession her life, so that my brothers and I could experience ours. Here’s to all the other incredible nurses along the way who make this career rewarding and meaningful. You are the best tiny pieces of nursing! Happy nurses week!!!!

How’s the weather?

How strange that one would live at all, in life outside my own

How strange this world exists for others and not my eyes alone

How vast the journeys some will take and never coincide

How small the number of those who look back truly satisfied

How cruel are you to love another

How crazy am I to care

How shallow and how narcissistic to need you here and there

How’s the weather, and how are the kids

How’s your addiction to the pain that you’re in

The open ended questions and pauses and the forced listening

How am I doing so far with this thing called empathy?

The Nose Diaries

When I started writing this, I wanted to describe what she looked like. I wanted my thoughts on her hair and her skin and her body to be known…And then I realized the details of her appearance would only reinforce the problems unnecessarily created by girls and how we view each other. I would be the hypocrite recreating my own problem. So for all you know, she was beautiful or hideous, large or small, perfect or flawed.

I was sixteen years old and had started my first “real job” at a custard shop just a couple of miles from my house. This girl was outspoken, always in your face with her stories and elaborate plans. Her behavior screamed, “look at me, hear me, know me.”

Our first week of working together, she came into the shop that day and started talking about her boyfriend. She told me she had showed him my picture on Facebook. He thought I would be really pretty, if it weren’t for my nose.

This stranger put me on display for an even more distant stranger, someone I had never met and actually would never meet. This stranger decided this was information I should hear or be broken by or be changed by…or have no idea how to respond to.

Ten years later, I don’t remember this girl’s name. I don’t remember where she went or what happened to her, or if we said goodbye or said we would keep in touch. Two things I do remember: she used pureology shampoo, and one day for no apparent reason, she took her chisel and aimed her hammer at my great insecurity, nicking off another tiny piece of my spirit.

 

The nose diaries

Remember my twin bed with the white iron bed frame, the one with the the bars that scrolled and curved to form hearts and swirls, and the golden capped globes on each corner? Remember the peach quilt my aunt pieced together, at a time when silly questions and inquiries into each other’s thoughts had no relevance. I was sitting and he was laying, his head in my lap. I asked him what he was thinking, and he responded by pointing to my nose.

“You’re thinking about my nose?” He nodded. I didn’t press for further questions, because I knew. My nose is big and misshapen, and it stands as a point of distraction or a point of demanding attention. I learned at that moment that I didn’t truly want to know what he was thinking. I learned at that moment that sometimes love means lying. Sometimes love means staying silent. Sometimes the least loving thing you can do is speak the truth….and the ones who respond with cold honesty, without hesitation, don’t love you at all.

Death in hospitals

The most defeating thing about death in hospitals is when the world keeps spinning. Teams come by to work with your dead patient, unaware of the past couple hours they spent fighting or surrendering. Doctors from other specialties come by to assess your dead patient, and housekeeping comes to clean your dead patient’s room and empty your dead patient’s sharps container. All the while you must calmly, quietly scream STOP. PAY ATTENTION. This person was here, and now they’re not.

Intersection

image.jpegI know you exhaustively…

Your movements, your bones, your skin

I breathe you in

I dance in response to your distress

My rhythm is lead by your every heartbeat

I know your past, and I try to predict your future… or change it…or delay it…or alleviate some heaviness from it

I know your veins like the bare branches of trees I climbed in youth

I know your fragility

I feel more responsibility for you than some of your family or dearest friends

and yet…there is no reciprocation in this knowing if you

There is no exchange of burden or sense of exposure on my part

There is no knowing of myself from you…

And this is very intentional

because if I revealed myself

If the single lane road were redeveloped or reconstructed…this would risk our collision…

This would risk my breaking…

And so we continue

I for you, and you for them

No junction of hearts, no intersection

 

 

Mad Men, Mistakes, and Moving On

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About a week ago I was finishing the show Mad Men, and I was blown away by a conversation between Peggy Olson (arguably everyone’s favorite feminist) and her work partner/friendship turned fire love interest, Stan Rizzo. For anyone who isn’t a Mad Men fanatic (why aren’t you…please reevaluate your life choices…go watch every episode now…) I’ll fill you in on the details of Peggy Olson’s character.

Peggy is a 20 something career minded woman with dreams, aspirations, and the tenacity that few people her age acquire in a lifetime. She works her way up from the secretary of the womanizing Creative Director, Donald Draper to become a successful female copywriter and business partner in the company. Peggy has a few love interests along the way, but they always take a back seat to her career. Her first love interest is Peter Campbell, an account executive whose ego and wealthy family give him a sense of entitlement towards everything, including women.

To sum it up…Pete and Peggy have sex..Peggy ends up pregnant…Peggy gains weight and becomes an object of scrutiny and gossip for the whole office…She is criticized by her family…a local priest…and almost entirely alone through the tumultuous and messy process that is having an illegitimate pregnancy in the 60’s (which surprisingly hasn’t changed much today)…She has the baby, gives it up for adoption, and continues her career with many more obstacles as a woman in a predominantly male time period and industry…In episode 11 in the last season of Mad Men, Peggy and Stan have a conversation that has stuck with me and shaken my already confusing views on feminism/woman’s rights/abortion etc… and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The conversation goes something like this…

PEGGY: I guess that’s the secret to your spectacular career, the fact that you don’t have kids

STAN: Well not that I know of…

PEGGY: That’s funny to you because it wouldn’t matter if you did, you could walk away

STAN: I would never do that

PEGGY: But you may not even know, that’s what you said

STAN:  You’re right I didn’t mean to judge

PEGGY: But you did and you don’t understand

STAN: “I had a mother! And she wasn’t great, and I don’t know if she wanted me, so I understand something!”

PEGGY: “But you don’t understand your mother! Maybe she was very young and followed her heart and got in trouble, and no one should have to make a mistake just like a man does and not be able to move on. She should be able to live the rest of her life just like a man does. Maybe you do what you thought was the best thing.”

That line…“No one should have to make a mistake just like a man does and not be able to move on.”

That line is haunting, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. My knee jerk reaction is to agree with it, to rally behind it, to feel the same indignation Peggy feels. Of “It’s not fair and life should be fair and equal!” It is that feeling that makes me completely relate to and understand why people support a woman’s right to choose.

Our society is fixated on second chances, redemption stories, do overs. In fact that’s the main part of Christianity people like and can agree with…the idea of an absolution of our sins complete with the full package of starting over brand new.

Making a mistake and moving on. Just like a man does.

My question is, what kind of world does this become when we foster a society that can move on from its mistakes without dealing with the consequences?

What happens when we create a safe place for people to not take responsibility for their actions?

It isn’t fair that God or mother nature or evolution or all of the above made it so women are the ones bearing children

It isn’t fair that God or mother nature or evolution or all of the above made it so men don’t bear children

But should fairness really be the motive of our decision-making on this issue? The fact that men can move on from the mistake of a one night stand or getting someone pregnant at an economically bad time does not justify them doing so.

Disclaimer***I am not talking about cases of rape/incest/or cases that threaten the life of the mother/baby (these are an astonishing low percentage of abortions that take place in America)***

As a 24 year old female, I have made many mistakes in my personal life, in my career, in my health choices, in my relationships. These mistakes have challenged me and changed me and molded who I am as a person. These mistakes are a part of me, and I carry them with me as a reminder that I am here. I am human. I am strong. I am able to adapt and grow from my mistakes. But none of these mistakes have I been able to erase or undo or abort. And I am glad I don’t have the choice to.

So how do we foster a society that promotes responsibility rather than regret and a quick solution?

Firstly by understanding no female wants to have an abortion. Given the option any female would have rather prevented the pregnancy in the first place.

Secondly we foster responsibility through education and availability of resources. Not by de-funding Planned Parenthood…not by educating our children and teenagers about abstinence and nothing else…not by ostracizing, criticizing, judging young mothers who are pregnant when it’s economically irresponsible or financially and professionally inconvenient.

One of the easiest ways we can promote responsibility is through our own actions and reactions to those teenagers and 20 somethings who are the most vulnerable. Talk to your children. Talk to other people’s children.

Make it your responsibility.

Immediate Results

“Flex your arms!” I told my husband, “Show me your new muscles,” I said excitedly. I was beaming with pride at his new found dedication, hitting the gym 6/7 days a week for the second week in a row. A few days later at home I said the same thing, “Let’s see some results!”

He sighed and laughed, “Sarah, it’s only been two weeks. You don’t even notice results in yourself until at least 4 weeks. Your friends and family don’t notice until 8 weeks. Everyone else doesn’t notice until 12 weeks.”

I didn’t really think much about his statement until this morning when looking in the mirror after a work-out class and feeling just ever so slightly disappointed that I couldn’t see a little bit more definition or a little less inner thigh jiggle. His statement resounded in my head, and it was just like a light-bulb went off, one of Oprah’s “aha” moments…

How many times do we effect change in our lives, becoming disappointed when we don’t see immediate results? We reach out in a relationship, and give up when we don’t feel the return. We put our hearts into work and do our best, then give in to let-down when there isn’t recognition, processes don’t change, morale doesn’t improve, things don’t get better. We implement life-style changes, and our bodies don’t reveal it.

We are very impatient people. Our commitments wane and fade off when our goal isn’t foreseeable, when we can’t reach out and touch it. I’ve started to observe this impatience in my every day life. I love immediate results. I crave them, and I have to fight frustration when I don’t receive them. An internal craze sets off when I don’t get my patients’ lab results back in a time I feel is appropriate. When their medications don’t arrive from pharmacy, I shake my head and sigh in annoyance. When the microwave is running, I stop it 5 seconds early. And I shouldn’t even go into grocery store lines (10 items or less means 10 items or less people!!)

So many times when we execute change, we grow frustrated when the environment or the circumstances don’t mirror that change. What if we changed the expectation? What if we applied that 4 week, 8 week, 12 week, and even longer mentality in other areas of life?

When you feel distant from your spouse, reach out to them and don’t give up when they don’t respond. When you feel disappointed in your lifestyle habits, change them and stay committed even when your body doesn’t follow suit the way you imagined. When your career isn’t advancing or your work-environment is negative, stay true to your goals and keep your positivity whether you see a difference made or not.

Commitment sets apart the people who are truly happy from the people who experience brief jolts of happiness and bottom outs in depression.

James 1:4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Means to an end

One of the things that most effectively turns people off to Christianity, or any sort of faith for that matter, is the great tragedies and misdeeds that have been done in the name of God. I think all Christians have met an atheist or agnostic and had a conversation that goes like this…”What about the Christian crusades or the witch hunters or religious wars. How can people do such evil things in the name of a ‘loving’ God?” Or a conversation discussing the great evangelists and extreme claims they made public in an effort to gain money. Or maybe you’ve been present in a church service where the pastor harps about America being God’s special chosen country and God being on our side. I remember when I was younger and people around me would pray for their favorite team to win the superbowl. I always felt extremely confused, thinking why is God on their side and not the other teams? Why does God pick teams, is the other team a bunch of heathens, does God not like them, and what happens to the people whose side he isn’t on?

I think as Christians we often times use God as a means to an end. When I was thirteen I really wanted a yellow corvette for my first car. I dreamed about it and put pictures of it up on my wall, and eventually I just “knew” God wanted me to have it. Did God ever speak to me and tell me he wanted that? Nope. But I felt a magical sense of entitlement to it.

How many times do we allow self-righteousness to become our ally and use God as our mascot? If I’m being honest as a Christian, I have felt that pride build up, thinking God is on my side, I am in the right and no one can stand against me…I mean us…I mean God? Even if something I believe in is good..or scriptural..or beneficial, that does not mean it is right. Maybe it’s not God’s timing. Maybe it’s not God’s will. Maybe it’s not God’s best. Maybe it will hurt too many people in the process. Maybe it’s not about who’s side God is on at all…

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

Just Say No

I have a very stressful job. Anyone working in a customer service profession can understand how exhausting it is to be on a people-pleasing overdrive. There is the balance of meeting the needs of your customers, in my case patients, as well as the expectations of your leadership, and also being available to help your co-workers in the midst of their equally difficult work shift. For those of us working stressful jobs, we often bring the stress home with us. I frequently have “nursing nightmares,” and I have heard people in other jobs, like the restaurant industry, describe their equally horrifying “server nightmares.”

So how do we come home from our day-to-day jobs and turn off the constant “service” mentality? How do we find ways to sleep peacefully, and to not bring extra stress into our home lives?

I often find myself in my personal or social life with the same ‘cater to others’ mentality. But there are appropriate times to say no, to make yourself a priority, and to make it known to others that your needs and wants are important. This does not constitute you as a selfish person. Instead it allows you to be assertive, healthy, and stable, and other people will come to respect you for it! Now, it is never appropriate or acceptable to say no to things that are your responsibility.

With that being said, I’ve established a list for myself of times it is appropriate to say no, and maybe it can help others who have the same problem! 

1. Always say no to things that involve spending money you don’t have.

Even if it is helping another person. You cannot reach beyond your means and beyond your budget to help others.

2. Always say no to favors that negatively enable another person.

Even if this person is not involved with a life destroying habit, if you are enabling them to continue a negative habit, you are not helping, you are hurting.

3. Always say no to moochers.

If a person in your life continually uses your kindness to their advantage, say no. This is not a friendship or positive relationship. Don’t fool yourself!

4. Always say no if the request interferes with your responsibilities.

If you say yes to a request that replaces your time for family, God, your children, your health, you will find yourself weak, drained, and less effective and successful in each aspect of your life!

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