I am not an angel!
Updated: Sep 12
When someone asks you what you do and you tell them you are a hospice nurse, you always hear, "that must be so hard, how can you do that work every single day?" and there is also the "you must be an angel", which I struggle with. I am not an angel and while I appreciate the sentiment, the truth is, I am just a human who found her passion. But the fair question is, how can we do this work every single day?
I had a day like that yesterday. In the midst of having 5 patients to see, someone very dear to me fell and was taken to the hospital and declined quickly. Her family has become my family and I love them all very much. I wanted to be there for them, I wanted to help them. This is what I do, this is where I thrive, and I knew I could help them. BUT! I had 5 patients to see and my work had to be done first. I had two patients that were actively dying, I had another that took an hour to relieve her pain, I had a family member that was 45 minutes late showing up to meet me and I had one that took me almost an hour to get to because of traffic. I felt like everything was against me being there for my friends (which I think of as family). All of this and the fact that I hadn't eaten anything all day, I was hot and sweaty and started to smell kind of yucky AND I HADN'T HAD A CHANCE TO PEE, put me in a very foul mood. But I finally finished and was able to be present at the bedside of a woman that was having a tough time and with a family I loved and it felt good to be there. I even put aside the fact that I still had 5 patients to chart for!!
Just as we were figuring out a plan for her and medications were being administered, I received a call from my office asking me to see another patient. This would be number 6. We were short staffed and the family member was anxious, upset and needed us NOW!! I didn't want to go, I wanted to stay right where I was. I didn't want to be a nurse at that moment, I wanted to be a human having a difficult time knowing someone I love was hurting. But I said yes.
It took me 40 minutes to get there; twice on the way I was called to ask my eta, which only infuriated me more. The second call was by our triage nurse, also frustrated because she was the one getting all the calls. I freaked out, I cried, I vented, and she listened. She stayed calm and she provided me with support.
I walked up to the door of my patient. I was hot, sweaty, starving and my eyes stung from crying and I shook it off. By the time I was inside with the husband and daughter, I was 100% hospice nurse. I provided them with comfort, support and active listening. I apologized for taking so long to get there. I relieved their wife/mother's pain. And I assured them that should her condition change during the night, we are just a phone call away. I was given hugs and "thank you's" when I left.
I am not an angel, nor am I a super human. Some days though, it feels like that is what is expected of us. We carry a lot of responsibility on our shoulders; working in hospice is hard. I had a tough day. I pushed myself too hard and I did NOT do any self care. When I got home I ate something and then I sat on the couch to start my charting for now 6 patients. But first I checked on my friends to see how they were doing and I checked in with the nurse who is caring for my friend/family member and made sure all was being well handled for her (and it was), I sent a "thank you" to the triage nurse who listened to me, and then I charted. Once I was done I took a nice long walk outside and I breathed in fresh air and gave myself a pat on the back and said "you did good today girl"... because sometimes that is all we need... a little pat on the back.
Some days are tough and I do wonder how the heck I can continue to do this work. Yesterday was tough and I think it was really because I had something personal going on, somewhere else I wanted to be. I felt torn, I felt guilty, I felt frustrated. But when I woke up this morning, I felt good about myself, my work, the job I did yesterday despite it all and I am ready for this day and what it might bring. And today... I will eat and I will pee and I should probably bring some deodorant with me. LOL
Most days are lovely, wonderful days. Some days are hard and difficult days. I am grateful for them all because all of this is what molds me into the human I am becoming and I love watching myself evolve and grow. But I have to remind myself that I am only human...
Take care of yourself... today and every day. YOU MATTER and someone needs you!!