Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Slump

It's ironic, really.

Just when I feel like I've hit a slump, writing-wise, and that I don't have much new to say, a very nice person from a trade publication sends me an email saying, "Hey! We wanna reprint X, Y, and Z weekly from your blog? That okay?" and I say Yes.

After all, how much new can you say every few days about gliomas and spinal cord tumors and customer service initiatives?

The amount of paperwork I do for an admission has quadrupled; the amount I do for a discharge has tripled. That's not as a result of HIPPA or joint commission requirements, it's a customer service plan presented by management.

The risk factors for an incurable brain tumor still include a happy life with well-behaved, intelligent children under the age of ten, a fulfilling job and loving spouse, and a pleasant and even temperment. Mean people never die.

The crack team of transplant nurses a couple of floors down from us are doing a lot of MUDs these days, which is taking a toll on them as a team and individually. MUD stands for Matched Unrelated Donor--it's a bone-marrow transplant of the last-ditch-effort sort--and people generally die, from what I understand, in particularly horrific ways after one. One of their nurses finally cracked about a week ago and left, just like that, because she couldn't stand to see any more twenty- and thirty-year-olds with their skin sloughing off and grade IV diarrhea. We see the nurses, looking haggard and drawn, in the elevators sometimes. We send them anonymous chocolate bars and flowers and do what we can to help them hold it together.

But there are compensations, even when my writing bug goes away for a while and it seems like everybody is dying all at once.

I had two very pleasant, healthy patients yesterday, both of whom had things that were not only curable but curable quickly and with minimal fuss.

One of my other patient's mothers bought me breakfast. Yum.

Another patient took the time to write out complimentary notes for every nurse that had taken care of him, every tech who'd helped him to the bathroom, and every transporter he'd been wheeled around by. No, I wasn't one of those nurses; I just provided names and pieces of paper, but it was nice to see.

I learned yesterday that you have to see the compensations when they come. The compensations might not be on the same scale as the horrific stuff, though. Most people who die in the hospital are sick in ways we can't even imagine--every system they have has shut down, or is screwed up, and they're in pain for a long time before they go. It's an extended, torturous way of dying, and we see it a lot.

Two or three pleasant people who look happy to see you and cooperate in their own care might not seem to compensate for the unfair and unpleasant outcomes of somebody you really liked, but they do--if you let them.

I think all nurses go through whatever this is. It's not burnout. I still want to get up and go to work, I still enjoy what I do when I get there. I still feel incredibly fortunate that I'm able to do what I do, and that there are other people willing to pay me for it. It's just that days are beginning to look the same.

I know it'll pass--this has happened in other jobs before. It's interesting to imagine what'll snap me out of the all-days-the-same mindset, and I'm willing to wait for that.

In the meantime, you guys might have to settle for more posts on potroast and crafts.


Kim said...


You have to hang onto those small things, big time. Especially where you work. We get them in, get them out and don't see the daily care or the effect on the family. We try to help the other nurses by holding patients longer when we can in the ER, but my hat is off to you because I honestly don't think I have it in me to do floor or unit nursing anymore.

shrimplate said...

Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre.

Rubber Soul.

There's more to the story, but that's all I've got sometimes.

woolywoman said...

We're having cute baby with nice families incurable brain tumor week over at my unit. You're right that the compensations seem smaller, but today the candy machine dropped two Hershey bars when I only paid for one, so, hey. And what's wrong with potroast. Do you have a good beef stew ? Mine came out oddly grey- ish.

Bonnie said...

I was only a nurse for a few years before I had to quit due to family circumstances. Reading your blog takes me back to the floor 30 years later. It is just about the most fulfilling thing I have ever done (I guess raising 2 great kids trump it, but only just). I love hearing about your days. I can see faces of patients I cared for in your stories even after all these years. So hang in there and keep up the good writing.


You sound like an awsome nurse!

HypnoKitten said...

I've always felt you have a lot of talent in the writing department. Let us know when we can read it (unless you'll lose your anon if you do...)