||[Dec. 9th, 2008|08:55 pm]
Looking back at the past 3 entries or so, I feel like I make a "hello!"-type post once every 8 months or so. HA! |
So for those who don't know, I am now a SICU (surgical intensive care unit) nurse at UAB Hospital. Despite the rather shit pay, I think my job is awesome. We've pretty much got the sickest patients in the southeast, and it's a challenge everytime I go to work. It's scary as hell sometimes, but I'm really learning so much and I have really awesome co-workers that back me up and most importantly, are there when I have questions.
The thing that has surprised me is how well I have dealt with death. I haven't had one of my patients die on my watch yet, but I'm constantly faced with death and dying issues everyday. On Saturday when I was working one of my patients had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 3 weeks ago, and decided to come in to have elective surgical procedure called the whipple (basically they take out the pancreas). Well, during the surgery there were complications and she almost died on the table. When she came to us, she was barely hanging on and blood was coming out of every tube... but she lasted through the night. When I got there on Saturday morning, I sent her back to surgery with multiple drips, tubes, etc... she came back about 30 mins later and the surgeons told us that her entire intestinal tract was dead and that she wouldn't be able to survive. So the doctors had to go talk to the family about making her a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) which basically means that we won't go to extraordinary measures when she begins to die. There are various forms of DNR status... which is complicated to get into, but it isn't as harsh as it sounds, I promise. It basically exists to not prolong care when it would not be beneficial in a patients' quality of life. Anyway, the family was incredibly shocked cause they were just with her 2 days ago and she was completely normal...she had come in for ELECTIVE surgery. They were devastated. It was so hard to see her son cry and her daughters numb. We let them back through the afternoon to let them be with her before she passed.
That's the emotionally draining part of what I do, but I'm trying to be strong and put aside my emotions in order to take care of the patient the way they need to be taken care of. I heard the family talking about how much of a hip grandma she was and how she wore toe rings and ALWAYS had her nails done. It was incredibly therapeutic seeing the family gathered around her and talking about her life. After they went to go eat, I brushed her hair out really well and cleaned the adhesive still left on her face, washed her face and neck, and then washed dried blood from her fingernails. She would have wanted that. I felt like that was me saying goodbye to her too.
Despite this aspect of my job that I don't necessarily enjoy, I'm just surprised how at peace I can be when I accept the fact that modern medicine has done everything possible for a person and they are still going to die. I am not a miracle worker, but I'm going to do my job the best damn way I know how.