Tuesday, October 31, 2006

to serve humanity

Tuesday, October 31, 2006
i entered nursing to make a difference in the lives of others. to serve humanity. to relieve suffering. inspired by my 'special' son, and his frequent contact with the medical system, i traded in my civil servant, speech writing hat for a stethoscope. my nursing training focussed on holistic, patient-centred care and emphasized critical thinking. in essence, what kind of nurse do i want to be and why? after a few months of acute care practice, I started to grasp the importance of those questions. they framed my practice. in every task, in every interaction, in every intervention, a nurse makes a subconscious choice as to the kind of nursing in which she wishes to engage. as i gained more experience i appreciated a new dimension to the question 'what kind of nurse do i want to be?'

as i gained more experience on the surgical nursing unit, it became clear to me that a nurse's role centres around the patient's response to illness and unwellness. that means bedside care. the paraphenelia, the pumps that beep and hum, the plastic and rubber tubes which we insert into peoples' orifaces, the needles, vials, and pills - a nurse these do not make. a nurse engages with patients whose body betrayals have thrust a painful metamorphosis upon their lives. with serious illness often comes loss of some kind. loss of normality, normalcy. loss of independence. loss of the little things which we encompass in our daily lives.

no amount of morphine, or iv fluids or physiotherapy will cure this sort of loss. the art of nursing lies in the delicate skill of assisting our patients in navigating the changes associated with these losses, in adjusting to an altered health status. and in guiding them to rebuild with what remains. with diginity. with compassion. and always, always, always while doing no harm.
this navigating - its the primary and most essential piece of a nurses' job, and yet its the part of the job for which we seem to have the least amount of time. and therin lies the incredible heartbreak of nursing practice.