Monday, February 02, 2009

Let's talk about compassion.

I've gotten a couple of comments in the last week that I haven't published. Both of 'em came from women (or a woman, posting as two) who claim to have kid(s) with AVMs on their faces; both of 'em took me to task for a lack of compassion. Apparently, I'm supposed to have compassion when I'm posting here, about my patients, and the doctors, and my nutso coworkers. (I should mention that both comments were personally abusive and name-calling, which triggers the auto-dump feature on the Nurse Jo Robot. That's why they're not here.)

Normally, criticism doesn't bother me. Blame it on the codeine, 'cause I'm gonna answer my critics:

Lady (or Ladies), you don't want me to have compassion on this blog.

Why not? Because, if I'm compassionate here, it means one of two things:

1. I've not used up all my compassion on my patients.
2. I'm drunk.

Let's be real, People: You don't come here for compassion and warm fuzzies. It's like the man said--come for the stories, stay for the snark. And, honestly, who wants to read me tear my heart out over patients that've torn my heart out?

I could talk about walking down the hall with Darlene, her arm around my waist, as we discussed the best way to tell her eight-year-old daughter that Mom wasn't going to live much longer. I could talk about Velma, and how she cried about having to go to hospice, because her mind was still there though her body wasn't. Or I could tell you about Ben, who told me frankly over dinner that he was damned ready to die, but was holding on for the good of his wife and kids, who weren't ready to let him go yet.

But you don't want to hear about that. Nor do you want to hear about the 13-year-old girl with the horrendous congenital AVM that would likely kill her, whose toenails I painted the night before she went into surgery (all but one, so they could put a pulse ox on in the OR), so they'd be pretty for the surgeons. You don't particularly care about the fifteen-year-old boy whose Moya Moya had so screwed up his brain that I was the only one who could get him to consent to surgery, and only then after coming in early and rocking him on his bed like a baby. And I'm certain, as the mother of an eleven-year-old with an AVM, that you don't care about the time I summoned up all the crappy, rusty Danish I could muster to help comfort a dying woman who couldn't remember that she wasn't at home, in Copenhagen.

You'd rather hear the snark, and read the snappy lines. I don't blame you. If my working life were snappy lines and snark, it'd be something for ABC or FOX to run in a half-hour between family comedies. It wouldn't be what I live every day, where real people hurt, and die, and sometimes don't die...and those of us who are living are left to pick up the pieces.

This is an important point for those of us who blog, and those of us who nurse: People will criticize you for not being the constant comforting angel that they think you ought to be. To hell with them. The important thing is that you do what you are meant to do for those people who find themselves in your care. 

That means you won't always be unsnarky when somebody wants you to be. You may not always want to talk about work when you get home. Sometimes, if you're a bit under the weather or a little too far into your cups, you might surprise your drinking companion with some heartbreaking story. The important thing is that when it counts, where it counts--with your patients--you aren't holding back.

I spend enough time questioning whether or not I did what was best for my patients. I spend hours after every work day going over every. damn. thing. I did. and trying to figure out if there were a way to say it better, do it more gently. In the middle of my day, I am a nurse. When I come home, I am a blogger. If the nurse part bleeds into the blogger part, it means I'm not doing my job--either job--well enough.

And so, critics, up yours. It's a shame you didn't read farther or dig deeper. I'm sorry for you, and I'm sorry for your kid--but I'm not sorry for my patients. What they get is the absolute best of what I have to give. What the blog gets is the cynical, tired leftovers.

Would you rather it be the other way 'round?


pelican said...

Actually, I come for the dog photos and the beer reviews.

But, that aside, JO IS NOT AT WORK RIGHT NOW.

We are not saints. We are not angels. We are people who have chosen, although we could make much more money and have easier lives if we chose otherwise, to take on jobs where we care for others.

What we do on our own time, that's our own.

Anyone who thinks their healthcare providers are perfect people is a troll, at best.

And, Jo, if my personal worst case scenario ever comes to pass- rapid, aggressive, GBM with thalamic involvement and associated pain syndrome- you are the nurse I would want.

Meagan said...

You tell 'em! :)

Uro*MA said...

Well said!! Next they will be putting you down and calling you a martyr because you had to summon up heartbreaking examples of why the majority of the nurse in you stays at work and the human in you is blogging. (sorry for the run on sentence lol) Some people will never be happy, my suggestion, if you don't like the content, go read something else! I hope you have a great week. ~~URO*MA

woolywoman said...

Say it, sister. I'm no angel, and I have no plans to become one.

Somenurse said...

Why not? Because, if I'm compassionate here, it means one of two things:

1. I've not used up all my compassion on my patients.
2. I'm drunk."

Amen! Blogs are our way to getting out all the things in our heads and hearts, good or bad. Its a way to share stories, and to know that you are not alone in your opinions and experiences. ROCK ON!

Anonymous said...

Perfectly stated!!
You can't be "on" 24/7 or your heart will just explode. Nurses are human too and need a way to vent.
What's important is the care and love we give to our patients. You do all you can, sometimes it's not enough, but you keep coming back and trying.
You're a real angel Jo- keeping caring and keep blogging!

Brenda said...

I could never be a nurse like you and your fellow angels. I think you folk come with a certain gene that gives you the ability to handle all that is thrown at you and do it with grace.

I like your blog just the way it is.

Anonymous said...

Well This blog is not gracfull at all. Talk about your co-workers and the doctors, leave the poor people that have to be in that situation our of it. Hats off to all those that nurse...... keep the venting private.

Anonymous said...

well said! Compassion is wonderful and necessary in the job, but it can make for dull, non cathartic writing if used all the time.

eff em if they cant take a joke!

Penny Mitchell said...

A. I have told my husband that if I ever end up in the hospital, he is to immediately fly Nurse Jo up here to make sure everything gets taken care of. If hubby is ever in the hospital, I will do the same for him. It's the only way the one in the hospital will survive while the one not in the hospital will get fed.

B. Dear Anonymous Snarkers,
Perhaps the news has not yet reached your corner of the world,'s not all about you. The world at large is not here to bend to your whim and operate as you see fit. Put on your big girl panties and deal with it.

C. P.S. to Anonymous Snarkers,
My Christian beliefs are keeping me from typing what I would really like to say to you. If that ain't compassion, I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

This post made me cry. I like it better when you make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

Nurses and Teachers are NEVER appreciated for what they give of themselves. (I am a stay at home mom, not either of those) Society today sucks. Who are they to judge YOUR blog? They can get their own blog, whine and moan there.
My daughter almost died after child birth AND being attacked by a Pit Bull. If it weren't for the nurses at both times I would have lost it. Thanks to all out there.

Anonymous said...

Wait, what? What? S/he sent a note urging you to be more compassionate, and filled it with abuse and profanity? What?

There will be a delay before I address the futility of trying to bring Teh Intartubes into line with one's own opinions. I'm still stuck on the ... wait, what? What?

Dr. Alice said...

Hear, hear. If I didn't care, I would quit being a PMD and do something else. I love the snark - don't quit doing what you're doing! I follow your blog approach as much as I dare because I hate when I get those "you don't care enough" comments. But I should stop letting that bother me.

Anonymous said...

Ive always thought your blog maintains a good ballance of reality and compassion. Carry on please.

Anonymous said...

Jo, you're a rock star. You've summed it up perfectly. I completely agree, and I've found myself wanting to say the same thing to my critics before. When you come to *my* ER, you get Nurse Erica, not Frazzled Blogger Erica, and we're two sides of a coin.

Keep it up!!

shrimplate said...

Alrighty then. Snark it is.

ButtercupRN said...

You said it just right Jo.
Thank you.

spotsy said...

It must be so hard for you to have reality offend your delicate sensibilities. I think a blog is a nice private non-harmful place to vent and snark.
Head Nurse
You are my god(dess)!

Anonymous said...

It goes without explanation that 'ignorance is bliss' and snarkiness is what helps us get through the 'reality'.
Keep up the great snarky-like dose of nursing reality.
You're readers aren't going anywhere.

Dragonfly said...

Great post. Great blog.

Rogue Medic said...

Sometimes you just need to slap some sense into some people.

It is nice to try to control other people's lives, so nice that they have a bunch of the DSM IV devoted to these people. Although in the DSM IV, I don't think they actually use the words troll, or crayzee, or judgmental hypocrite. Maybe judgmental hypocrite is in there.

Don't let the my feelings are more important than anyone else's feelings trolls get to you. These hypocrites will suck the compassion out of you, so that you do not have anything left for your patients.

Why do they want to harm your patients? Because they can.

Talk to Me said... bizarre that I get to this page...and how bizarre that my name is Jo...and how bizarre that I am a nurse...
and how bizarre that I feel exactly as you do. Compassion belongs where it belongs; but according to its choosing, not when the critics expect it.
It is its own entity.

Keep on doing what you are doing......I like it.

iwantHLTHY said...

I just came across you blog.. even more bizarre my name is Jo and i'm also an RN. <- proof! Well, and I thought I was so special!. Appreciate the realness.