Coming To Terms with Your Calling
I've had a few random visitors to my website this week (Hello? Who do I know in L.A.?), and every time a notification pops up, I think to myself, "I really need to post another blog." I do have lots to say, I promise. I'm just too exhausted to follow through. Mentally, physically, and spiritually.
I don't want you to think my misery is any worse or somehow more important than anyone else's. I can only speak for myself, but the last two and a half years have definitely taken their toll. I feel it every day. But that isn't what this blog is about. After all, we can't go around blaming Covid for EVERYTHING. This particular struggle started well before the 'Rona was even a "twinkle in his mama's eye".
I became a nurse in 1995. Rather, I graduated nursing school in 1995. I passed my nursing boards in 1995. From that time until 2009, though, "RN" was just a couple of letters behind my name. I went straight from nursing school back to working in clinical pharmaceutical research. Between 1995 and 2008 I worked, I grew a couple of kids from scratch, I worked, I quit because I felt guilty being away from those kids I grew, then went back to work when I needed adult interaction or money got tight. This back-and-forth struggle went on for years. Eventually, I began to realize that I was at a disadvantage. I was educating some of the nation's top physician researchers on potentially groundbreaking new medications for diseases I really knew nothing about. I felt like a fraud. Cue the Imposter Syndrome, right?
In 2009, however, I got the opportunity to work at the bedside in Intensive Care, and that is when I learned how to be a nurse. I can narrow it down to the very moment it all clicked. What is causing her heart rate to be elevated? Well, it could be pain, dehydration, medications, any number of things. It was a great moment, and one I will never forget. Thirteen years later, I have experience in critical care, hospice and palliative care, home health, long term care, wound care, and now seem to have settled myself into home care.
But here's the thing: I'm at the point where I have a real love/hate relationship with nursing. Right at this moment I'm leaning more towards hate, but for some reason I can't bring myself to walk away.
Case in point: This morning, two of my caregivers called out before I had even gotten out of bed (the fact that they're related makes me a little skeptical, but I digress). I put out a message to all of the caregivers to try and fill those shifts, to no avail. Not a peep, even when I said that one of the clients was bedbound and would not get any food today if no one went to help him. Not even when I offered a higher rate AND a bonus. Here I am sitting in my living room after working 40+ hours a week, trying to make the most of a weekend on call (which is really no weekend), and now I'm angry, resentful, and generally disappointed and disillusioned with a generation that seems to have no work ethic and no empathy. I wish I could say it was just an isolated event, but sadly, this is my world.
Since I would never ask my staff to do anything I wouldn't do myself, and because my conscience would never allow me to go about my day while this poor man sat in his bed hungry, I left my coffee on the counter, stared longingly at the cans of crushed tomatoes that I had been planning to make marinara with, and headed over there. I was greeted by the client's vicious guard dog, a tiny white ball of hair who immediately wanted to be snuggled. As I pick up this five-pound protector of the realm, I hear a voice call out, "Thank you so much for coming." I spent the next 45 minutes with this sweet, sweet man who wants nothing more than to be able to stay in his own home instead of going to a facility. I emptied his catheter bag, told him he needed to be drinking a LOT more water because he was dehydrated, and inspected and cleaned his catheter. I took his dishes that had been left out from the previous night and washed them, made his lunch, then got out something for his dinner that he could serve himself. He was 1) shocked that the Director of Nursing would come take care of him, and 2) honestly grateful that someone came to help him.
Have you ever seen the third Godfather film? I know, it's like the Jaws 3 of the Godfather trilogy, but just hear me out. The most memorable line from that film in my opinion is "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."
That's what happens. Every time. Just when I want to throw my career out the window and go work at the grocery store as a check out girl, a patient comes along who reminds me why it's important to keep going. It's not about the caregivers who don't care, who call out when they've had a loose bowel movement, or their kid gets a scratch on his nose. It's about the people out there who need help, the kind of help we will all need one day.
Being a caregiver, whether you are a nurse, a nurse's aide, an EMT, or even a teacher, is not a job, it's a calling. You certainly aren't going to get rich. It's just part of who you are, and I guarantee that if you think back on your life, you'll realize it was always there.
Having said that, I will close with this warning. We all have a breaking point, and I feel like I'm getting closer to mine every day. I will never not want to help others, but if that day ever comes, that is the day I head over to Whole Foods.