What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

March 6, 2007

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.

Posted in: personal

Comments on What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

  1. 1

    From David:

    I almost cried reading that: “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.”

    Death is impossible to grasp. Here’s to it being the beginning of true life.

  2. 2

    From Lauren:

    It’s good that you are doubting where you are going. Thats a nice feeling you know. I’m sorry that things get so hard and stressing.

    Isn’t the power of music interesting that she could sing and keep her attention. Hmmm.. :)

  3. 3

    From Lauren:

    Oh and I really like the top of the page with the books.

  4. 4

    From AO:

    props on doing what you’re doing. hard job, but important.

    thanks for the comment on the Ewing post on my blog–i’d like to ask you to say a little more on there, so i can get a better grip on what you mean.

  5. 5

    From Mich:

    I like this post SO much. I’m glad we’re blog friends =)

    I think Indiana U and Carnegie Mellon will be my top two choices for a masters in arts admin. I also applied for the PR programs at Syracuse and Purdue but IU is the only one i’ve heard back from so far, so we’ll see what happens…

  6. 6

    From Katy:

    So, I teared up reading this. ‘Cos I’m a baby.

    So many people don’t get to keep their dignity when they grow old. My grandmother is in a nursing home and bed sores and lack of control over her bodily functions are common problems. It’s awful. But some of the people at the home help her maintain her dignity by keeping her clean and doing her nails and her hair for her. She feels better and loves to have people fuss over how she looks and loves when she knows she looks pretty.

    And that makes me quite grateful for such individuals.

  7. 7

    From Andrew:

    yeah, whenever i find out about things like that, i try to remember something CS Lewis (and probably many others) wrote–that Jesus taught things that are important and good and right. more than that, JC taught people to do things that if his students did them properly would make the world a better place.

    but there have been other great moral teachers who have taught good advice that few people, if any, actually follow. so i should try to remember JC gave us much more than good advice (about morality, about justice, about how to handle relationships, etc…

    i can’t find lewis’s actual quote at the moment, but if i understand it right, the point of it is that whether or not people actually follow through on what JC told us to do is less important than what JC did.

    when i say it like that, it sounds too extreme. i’ll find the actual quote and post it sometime today.

  8. 8

    From Scott:

    I have all the respect in the world for you – I wouldn’t make it one day in a situation like that.

    that is exciting, though, that you’ve found what you want to do, are confident in that fact, and are actively pursuing it. I fall more along the lines of ‘found what you want to do, are confident in the fact, and are as far away from doing it as you possible could be’.

  9. 9

    From Nic:

    Kat, you are a much more compassionate person than I am. As I was reading, I kept thinking “Oh my god, I couldn’t handle that!” and then you say this is something you’d really like to do. You’re a good person, you.

    And what do you know, I’m also a member of the ‘far away from doing what I want to do’ club. I’m not always pleased about that.

  10. 10

    From Cio:

    I worked in a hospital for about 2yrs, although I wasn’t a Nurse, I did see them work, and asked for their help from time to time…I think nurses are amazing people, with great hearts. Looks to me like you’re going to be one awesome nurse…No matter what kind of nurse, you may be.
    I’m glad you’re likin’ it. God Bless.

  11. 11

    From Spring:

    My first non-xanga link! Among the likes of Dooce! And Go Fug Yourself! I’m famous!

    You’ve made my day. Thanks. :)

  12. 12

    From David F:

    Kat, it’s hard for me to even read about a situation like that. You truly have the compassion of a Saint. Thank you for sharing that with the world. I know how hard your work is this semester, and I’ve mentioned to you before how much respect I have gained for nurses after seeing the work and effort you and your classmates are putting in to get your degrees. Good luck to all of you because the world will never have too many caregivers.

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