I have found my lifework–nursing! I have been working in the healthcare field for nearly two years now, and if I am able to continue in this work for the rest of my working life, I will be content. My heart is in this job; I love what I do, and even the worst shifts are not able to do more than dim my love.
As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian, because I thought it would be nice to have patients that can’t ever talk back. For several reasons that dream did not come true, and I am now caring for human patients, most of whom are fully capable of talking back to me. To my amazement, this communication is one of the best things about my work as a nurse aide. I love to come in to an assignment full of grumpy people, work with them, talk to them, love them all day; and watch as they become more contented and happy throughout the shift.
Yesterday I worked with a gentleman who was as truly miserable as anyone I’ve seen in while- and I work in a hospital Medical/Surgical unit! Vasily speaks Russian and a little- a very little- English;in addition to which he has some neuro-cognitive difficulties. The communication barrier made it very hard for us to know what he needed. Something as simple as a wrinkle in the sheet could cause exquisite pain until we managed to figure out what was causing Vasily’s discomfort. He is a big guy and repositioning his inert body required two staff members using all their strength. His contracted legs and arm seemed to make him slide around on the sheets, so much so that I kept a side rail up just to prevent his feet from dangling over the edge. I was always afraid that he would try to get up on his own when he needed to use the urinal. With his limited mobility, the risk of his falling was extremely high. Our trying to keep him in bed irritated Vasily immensely.
My inablity to help Vasily to be comfortable was quite frustrating to me. His intelligent eyes would be fixed on me as he spoke earnestly in Russian. I could understand only a few words, usually nothing that helped me figure out what he needed. As the time passed, however, we both learned to communicate better without using words that the other could not understand. Vasily knew more English than I do Russian, so we got by with those few words and plenty of expressive gestures. I got a lump in my throat when Vasily started crying, apparently because we were being kind to him- he shook his head no to pain or toilet. He was by far my most challenging patient that day, and also one of the most rewarding.
This morning as I was getting report from the night shift, the first patient we saw was a cute little lady, her frail body wrapped in blankets, sleepy confusion evident on her face. Her defensively garrulous questions offered us a glimpse into the lonely heart hiding beneath that cute little face. As the day went on, you could see that Patsy was feeling more comfortable and was able to relax enough to accept our care of her. The bed alarm no longer sounded so often as she came to realize that I really did not mind walking her to the bathroom when she needed to pee. When she was discharged early in the afternoon, it was my pleasure to wheel her down to her son’s car, and my privilege to receive warm thanks from both.
Those are just a few examples of the kinds of experiences that make up my job. It is challenging and rewarding; frustrating at times, but that is why I keep coming back. I love the challenges, the rewaards and even the frustrations are just that much more rewarding when overcome.
I am in love with nursing; this is my lifework, this is my lifesong.