Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nursing Reflections

When I switched my major from biology/pre-med to nursing/pre-med, I got a few mixed reviews. A lot of people were really supportive, and completely understood the decision and thought it was actually pretty smart. Other people thought I was nuts, because after all, who would want to be a nurse, and why would I settle for nursing school when I could do so much more? A lot of people still think I should just go on to medical school. While I have no idea what my education will finally end with, whether that be medical school or not, I do know that I am really, really glad I decided to change my major and enter nursing school.


Last semester was my first official nursing course, and it was fine. Nothing major, and it was only the one course. This semester we have two nursing courses, one of which being out first clinical experience. The lecture classes aren't actually as interesting and applicable as I would've hoped, but I am really enjoying the clinical part of the course. So far we've only been in the hospitals twice, but we've been learning a lot through the Clinical Learning Center at the School of Nursing. We've basically gone over skills like blood draws, starting IVs, IV pumps, oxygen therapy, folly catheters, and more. It is nice to learn things that are actually useful in the hospital and patient setting rather than just learning the mechanism for DNA replication for the eight hundredth time since middle school. I feel like things we are learning in nursing school will definitely help me if I do end up going to medical school--and in a lot of ways, help me more than the standard biology, chemistry, organic classes. I'm also glad I get to see and experience the nursing side of patient care, and if I do end up as a doctor one day, I can only imagine that having experience as a nurse will make me that much better as a doctor.

Donating blood with my friend from nursing school, Stephania.

Our little mannequin friends from class.

Anyways, so for the past two weeks, all of us nursing students have been paired with an RN in the hospital and have gotten to be "in charge" of our own patients. For clinical this semester, I am on the trauma unit, which is really exciting. We get to see a lot and have already been exposed to quite a bit for only being there a total of eight hours. And honestly, I feel like I've already learned a ton.

Practicing blood draws with Stephania. 

Besides learning expected things like blood sugars, ostomy bags, wound care, hundreds of acronyms, and hospital regulations and standards, I thought a lot about the actual patients and patient care this week. In the trauma unit here in Richmond, I've seen people from several different walks of life, who have made all different kinds of choices here on this earth, and who have had various consequences because of their actions. Then there are also patients who are here for reasons that almost seem so unfair, almost unjust--what did they really do to deserve to be so sick? Last week was our first week, and just being in the hospital taking care of an older lady who really couldn't do much for herself at all, I was definitely reminded of my Grandma Gray. I went down and saw her in the hospital pretty often, and I guess I just have a soft spot for caring for other people like her. She would always tell me that when I became a nurse, make sure you really care about people. Make them feel amazing, because they might just be miserable. When I stayed with her for a few nights a few years ago, I remember just sitting by her bed, rubbing her feet, or brushing her hair. Grandma always had to look as nice as she could, even with tubes and wires sticking out of her from all ends.

Practicing blood glucose tests in class.

Mom and Grandma on one of our many visits.

Grandma and Rachel, Evan, and I a little over a year ago. Christmas 2011.

Anyways, so this morning I was almost torn, wondering how you have compassion for someone who intentionally causes harm to their bodies, and does so so extensively, when the patient next to her is dying from no fault of her own. It's like my grandma: why did she of all people have cancer, diagnosed in 1989, and suffer with it and the extreme pain it brought upon her for so many years? How do you have the same degree of compassion for a person like my grandma, and say, a person that has caused so much damage to their body because of life-long drug addictions? But I can. I'm glad I had that experience--it definitely made me stop and think. I was talking to Mom later, and got a lot out of the experience. Who knows why people end up in different situations, in different circumstances. You definitely cannot judge, and especially as a nurse in a caring role, I have to be compassionate towards everyone. It's not my place to judge their actions. Mom brought up how when Christ was on the Earth, he didn't turn anyone away--sick, lepers, dumb, blind, poor, needy--he helped them all. Why shouldn't I? I need to have that Christ-like love. It also reminded me of how God has a plan for each of us, and he knows the paths we will take in this life. Maybe we can't understand everything here on this Earth, or why we experience trials and struggles, but sometimes we just need to have faith.

Mom and I gowned up to visit Grandma last year.

Dad and I gowned up, visiting Grandma.

The patient I had last week was still there this week, but she was actually going home today. I went in to her room and asked her if she remembered me. She said no, but I told her that was fine--I was only there for four hours last week! She was so incredibly sweet--started talking to me and telling me how excited she was to go home after being in the hospital forever. She definitely didn't have an easy road ahead of her, but she had a lot of courage, love, and faith surrounding her.

After I got off the unit, Mom had texted me telling me that one of the families we know from church was in the hospital with her son, and that I should run up and see them if I had time. Of course. I ran down to the floor, and started chatting with the Mom and smiling and laughing with her little 18-month old boy who just had his shunt replaced in surgery on Monday. What a happy, sweet little spirit that guy had. Seriously, you would never know he just had surgery and that his life has been such a little miracle so far. Such a sweet moment. If he can be so happy in his life, what do I have to complain about? Honestly, his life, in 18 short months, has already been so much harder than mine!

I'm so grateful for these experiences I've had these past two weeks. Cleaning up feces from a leaking ostomy bag isn't always a thrill a second, and I'm sure it will probably get old after a few times, but so far, I've really enjoyed just being able to care for other people, just make their mornings a little bit more pleasant. I've seen my faith grow a little bit. I've been reminded of important things I want for my own life. Some of those patients really are a trip, they are teaching me a lot, and they've got a lot of their personalities to share. I can't wait to experience more.