Monday, April 25, 2005

"Do you practice what you write?"

Just saw that comment on another medical blog, one written by a doctor.

It got me thinking: do I practice what I write?

Most of the time, the answer to that should be "God, I sure hope not." If ever I did, there would be nastiness flying that would make Dr. House look like a kinder, gentler Florence Nightingale. (Not that that would be hard, you understand. Ol' Flossie was a bit pushy, then a bit weird. But you get my meaning.) If I had one day to say what I *really* thought...goodness. The building, with its overfed administrators and clueless management, would likely burn down. Hopefully with the aforementioned people still inside it.

So most of the time, no, I don't practice what I write. I don't often write about how difficult it is to find something to say to the wife of a young man with a highly aggressive and atypical glioma. I don't write about how often I have to tell people that they will *not* get any better, that where they are is as good as they're going to get.

I don't write about the times I don't say anything. Those times are the most important, in the larger scheme of things, and you never know they're coming until they're on you. Sometimes the most therapeutic (I'm making bunny-ears in the air to signify quotes around that word) thing you can do is shut the hell up and let the other person vent. Sometimes that happens at the very most inconvenient time possible, like at the end of the shift when you're exhausted, because that person decides to trust you when your hand's on the door.

A lot of this job has to do with reminding yourself nearly-constantly that it is not about you. People will bitch, moan, complain of being abused by the physical therapists, and be insulting to you...but they'd do that to any willing ear that came in. They'll compare you to other nurses. (Nota bene: Other nurses are always better than you in retrospect.) They'll be nasty.

Then, all of a sudden, it really *is* all about you. For some weird reason, this person has decided that you, with all your faults and pettiness, are the person that they want to express their fears to. And you have to be ready for that, and not make any huge blunders.

Then it stops being about you again, if you do your job right. I don't practice what I write. What I write casts me as Super Nurse, with the big S on my chest and the cool boots. (No capes.) I wish I could write what I practice, but there's a delicacy to the interactions that I just can't do justice to.

Eventually, maybe, I'll get there. In the meantime, though, what I do is this: imagine my day, before I even get out of bed, as though everything is going perfectly smoothly. I think of the ideal responses, the ideal emotions. I store those away. And then, for the next twelve hours or so, I try--not to live up to the ideal--but not to kill anybody or dope-slap anyone out of frustration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You need to wear your SuperNurse nursing hat.

What happened to those?