Saturday, January 09, 2010

Nice About Death Flavor

There's this really cool girl in orientation with me. She's been a PICU nurse for a long time and traveling as one. Traveling nurses sign short-term contracts with hospitals who are short for nurses. They are thrown into the mix on hospital floors with very little orientation. They need to be adaptable and competent in their work. It is well-known in the profession that it is a very high-paying position. Hospitals go to travelers as a last option. It costs hospital units a large portion of their budgets. Most units would prefer to spend that money making new hires, but at times, there are none immediately available. When there are patients, hospitals must have nurses, so traveling agencies are services committed to filling those positions.
It's a general theme right now around the country that traveling nurses are landing regular staff RN positions at hospitals, because of the economy. They want stable positions, because the window of opportunity for getting staff RN positions has been closing. This girl has a rich background of experience in the PICU, and she's going to be working in my hospital as a PACU nurse. Pediatric Post-Anesthesia Care Unit. She takes care of kids in the transition between the completion of surgery and their transport to hospital beds. She keeps kids from dying as they wake up from surgery. She also reminds me of Meg Ryan, but looks more like Claire Danes. So I stare at her a lot. I hope she doesn't notice.
Anyway, she told me that people will come to me, because I am nice about death. Then our leader chimed in. "She has an oncology point-of-view." She says oncology and the PICU clash in their thinking. I guess PICU nurses are generally not welcoming to death. They generally do everything they can to stop it, even after it stops making sense. It's their job. It's the parents' wish. It's the doctor's order. For whatever reason, it's how they function psychologically. To switch the goal of care from "get better" to "die well" would be, according to our nurse educator, "too much" for the PICU nurse. I don't think that's true, though. But I have no experience to back it up. I think there are points where even PICU nurses want to tell the parents to give up. Anyway, my facilitator suggested that there should be a palliative care unit where patients can go after pulling the plug - a unit the specializes in helping patients die well, a unit separate from ICU nurses.
It's going to be different. In my last nursing experience, we were helping people die all of the time. It's a healthy thing to die well, to be allowed to talk about it, to be allowed to grieve it - even before it comes. That's how I see it. Death is a good part of life. But I would see it that way, because I come from oncology.
It all goes into the mix. Everybody brings their specific flavor to the team. There's a girl who wanted to be a vet and worked with tigers and dolphins and whales for a while. Another girl went to Bethel at Minnesota and prays before she eats. Meg Ryan brings her flavor. Us new grads bring our flavors. It's going to be a tasty treat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love you - and your thoughts. Reading these make me realize how much I miss you....

Lauren :)

You are a great nurse, I know.