Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cruel to be kind

I had a nursing student following me tonight. As I've said before, I love me some nursing students. I always feel bad when I ask them to do things like refill water jugs or do baths on patients, but I am *so glad* they're there. Nursing students make me a better nurse, in that I'm more careful, more cautious, and I bother to explain things--both to them and the patient. Plus, they can save my nursey ass from disaster by taking up the slack.

Anyway. Nursing student. Nice guy, works at County Giganto on the weekends. His wife was the one, coincidentally, who did my ultrasound during the great Maybe It's A Toomah Scare of 2009.

I taught him how to put down an NG tube. On a patient who still had a gag reflex, but who was aspirating anyhow.

Very traumatic.

For him, for me, for the patient. For some reason I still don't clearly understand, I tend to close my eyes during NG tube insertions and just go with the flow. Nine times out of ten, barring some weird turbinate action, I can get 'em down. I've not failed yet with one of the smaller, weighted tubes.

But this poor guy was a mess. I can understand nervousness about new procedures; I still remember how strange I felt the first time I jabbed somebody in the ass with a needle. He did really well, actually, not backing down or freaking out. He got the tube in with a minimum of blood and gagging, and the patient was fine afterwards. It didn't hurt that that patient has no short-term memory at all: she's totally amnesiac beyond about thirty seconds.

But it's still strange to realize that you're going to hurt people, to cause pain, in the service of getting them better. It's like the first time I ever really *thought* about what I was carrying when I was hauling samples to the lab (before I was a nurse)--I got a little faint, reflecting on the fact that I was holding comfortingly warm tubes of blood.

I got over it, and he will too. No matter how strange it seems, our job as nurses is to help people heal. Sometimes healing means unpleasantness or outright pain. Until you've worked in a unit that deals with post-op orthopedic patients, or a burns unit, you won't understand the degree of distance which a person can achieve with a little effort.

Sometimes being a nurse sucks. Having to hurt people qualifies. Having to stick somebody with a needle, or jam something into their nose, requires a certain sort of wicked (meaning keen-edged) sensibility that this, right here, is temporary, and that the benefits outweigh the costs.

In the last job I had prior to being a nurse, I had to deal with people who had been hurt by other people. That was harder than hurting them myself. Part of it is rationalization: I know that what I do has an eventual benefit....but it's still weird to contemplate.


An Open Heart said...

Food for thought. Thank you.

Unknown said...

This, right here, is why I can never be a nurse. It's also why my fiance can - in fact, his next RSD is NG tubes. I cringe every time he talks about them. I'm so glad there are people in the world who are capable of handling what it takes to be nurses, but I know I'll never be one of them.

'Drea said...

Thank God for nurses.

I don't have the stomach to be an R.N.