Thursday, February 18, 2010

I am a new PICU nurse.

I am a new nurse in the PICU, and that means that my schedule often leaves me wondering what day it is, what time it is, and what to call the meal I'm eating. It's very disorienting coming home in the dark morning and seeing people fresh from showers getting into their cars for work or to see kids waiting for the school bus. It feels like night, and I am ready for bed, but it is really morning. Do you say, "Goodnight," before you go to bed at 8:30am?
I am a nurse, so I pretend to be confident, to have things together. But sometimes I feel as though I am walking in circles. Sometimes I really am. Parking... There are several parking garages, several randomly closed streets, and a mountain of traffic. Navigating... After I park in the correct parking garage and find the correct exit, there are several tunnels connecting buildings. I must find my unit in a matrix of unmarked hallways and dungeonous-looking corridors. I function mostly by intuition, and this makes navigation hard. Once I come to a fork in the path, I first try the hallway that just "looks right" or "feels right". One of my classmates recently decided that she should invent a GPS for inside buildings. I have sarcastic feelings about that. Things like, "Then we can really rely on technology instead of our brains." and "Then nobody ever has to know where they're going just like we never know people's telephone numbers." and "I think they already did that. It's called a map." Stuff like that. But the other part of me is honest with myself and thinks it's brilliant. Storing my lunch... I must say that this is a relatively easy task, and I think that I can confidently say that I have mastered it. Finding a bathroom... Very few toilets service all of our nurses and visitors. It's incredible, really.
I am a rookie, and that means that I make everyone else feel smarter. There are new orientees coming through every three months. So right now, we're the rookies, but in a month, we won't be. The rookies who just graduated from rookieship helped me fill out a piece of paper the other day. Then they looked at each other and started laughing, because somebody is finally dumber than they are. It's a good feeling.
I am a new nurse in the PICU, and that means that I am in shock. In nursing school, our patients were mostly alive. Usually, we could have conversations with them, take them for a walk, ask them about meals. Now, my patients are mostly dead. I might've already said this, but I used to think sick meant throwing up, pooping your guts out, etc. Now I realize that "sick" can mean unresponsive, deformed, brain dead. When I first got here, I wanted to wander around the unit in spare moments and see what else was going on. Right now, I am having trouble. When I walk around, I hate what I see. It catches me off guard and I am pricked at the unnatural body positions, unnatural facial expressions, unnatural portion of death among the living. Sometimes I come home, and I just lay on top of my husband and cry.
"Are you wiping your snot on my shirt?"
"Man, now I have to change shirts this week."
He says other things, too, that help me breathe and function. Simple things like, "Why does it have to be your goal for them to get better?" And it's profound, because some of them are not getting better and are not ever going to get better. If my goal is for them to get better, I fail. If I can change my goal to just love the poor, suddenly, my work is meaningful. Suddenly, I am doing something that matters deeply to my Savior. "Jesus said you'll always have the poor."
I am a new PICU nurse, and it means I'm functioning. It means I'm wondering if nursing is really the right career for me. It means I'm crying more than usual. It means I'm tired. It means I'm leaning on my people even more than usual. It means I'm hearing beeping in my sleep. It means I'm learning to take care of the sickest kids in the hospital. It means something, and that means everything.

1 comment:

A girl who sees said...

Ahh Katie...I so resonate with this post!! (PS - It's Kjirstin again, the nosy one from dinner the other night) ;) I know exactly the feeling of everything you're saying. I remember feeling much the same way the first time I saw a 24 weeker who was less than a pound, and the first time I witnessed a death, and watch the nurses do all the care afterwards. The whole thing seems so unnatural, yet so natural at the same time. I hate to say it (in one way) but it does get easier. Sometimes it makes me sad, because I don't want it to be easy to witness the difficulty that goes on in my unit. But at some point, it will get easier. And until then, know that like you said, you're doing something that matters to Jesus. And ultimately, that's all that matters!