Whenever I get to talking about school with anyone, one of the first questions they ask me is, “What kind of nurse do you want to be?” So I just want to go on record here and say that as of right now, the answer is “I don’t know.” But I can tell you that I have had some experiences lately that have me leaning in a way I never thought I would.
Last week I had a patient who was 84 years old, hospitalized for a severe urinary tract infection that got into her blood. She was very confused and helpless. She could hardly do anything for herself. She was wearing diapers because she could no longer control her urination or bowel movements. She also had two pressure ulcers (bedsores) on her middle and lower back. That day, during her bed bath, the nurse’s assistant called me and my preceptor in to evaluate her sores because while they were cleaning her she had begun to have a soft bowel movement and it had soiled the dressing. When we entered the room there she was, lying on the bed, naked, scared, confused, and embarrassed. She wasn’t much of a talker, but she kept looking at her daughter (who was there with her) and at us with a pleading look in her eyes, saying things like, “What am I gonna do? Are they going to kill me?” My heart broke for her, and I can tell you that it was one of the most satisfying experiences I have had yet just to clean her up and get her settled comfortably in her bed.
That day my preceptor, Kay, told me a similar story. She had an elderly patient who had had an aneurysm in her brain which had been operated on. Unfortunately, she had progressed to the point where she was no longer responding to anyone around her – not quite in a coma, but almost. During the operation they had shaved half of her head and a portion on the other side, so that she had a tuft of long hair coming out that was matted and crusted. Evidently no one had washed it for awhile, because the short hair had already grown out some. Kay decided that she was going to wash it and brush it. Then while she was doing this, she got the idea to cut it. She cut it into that kind of cute and spiky look that you see some grandmas wearing. During the whole process she sang Christian songs to her, and she noticed that when she sang, her patient’s eyes focused directly on her, a sign of awareness that hadn’t been shown since the operation.
Experiences and stories like this are what is making me think that I may want to be a geriatrics or hospice nurse. We all grow old, and we all die, and it usually isn’t pretty. It happens all the time, but it’s a new experience for every person when they go through it. This is a time of great need for those people, and they are frequently overlooked.
Nursing school is hard, and it has really been stressing me out lately. This is my spring break, but I have more schoolwork to do than I can handle, almost. But I am not doubting my chosen profession for a minute. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve found what you want to do with your life, and you are doing it.