Would think that a few days away and I would be able to not think about work. That’s the thing about nursing though – there is always something… that takes you right back into your work world. Not that these past days have been any sort of vacation, but, other times, I would be able to keep the lid on the vase of my work thoughts somewhat closed. I find myself getting lost in memories of faces, reminders of details and then drawn back in. I guess hospice will be just like that for me.
Was talking with a fellow nurse who I have known for years, but, lost touch with. We worked together for a good while and spent a few moments catching up. She told me about her hospice experiences. “I couldn’t get away from it”, she said “I would go home and cry every time I had a death”. Her hospice career lasted 6 months. It was a great experience, but not one that she would ever be able to resume.
I happened to be at my former hospital unit a few days ago. My husband was with me and saw all of my past coworkers. Everyone was enthusiastically asking me how I liked my new job. I am pretty certain that I said “It’s ok”, or “I am getting used to it” as my stock answer. My husband, who is so sweet, told me that if I was so uncertain of the new position then I should head back to the hospital.
The problem is, I am uncertain. It’s an entirely different nursing experience. I can feel my heart still beat out of control when I think about how I will react to my first death. Having been a hospital nurse for so long, it’s such a different perspective. I did not always think about death, because I was too busy doing everything in my power to prevent patients from slipping to the other side. It was a duel with death, but, it always seemed that if I thought too much of it, that I would be giving it some sort of advantage. Now, it’s all I think about. How will I help a patient face it? Will I support the family in the right way? The path of thought is different….
I’m not thinking about being on the winning end of the death battle. I’m thinking about how I can help my patient courageously transition into the unknown. Will I be strong enough to help them? Can I honestly be that guide for someone who is still trying to keep one foot in this world and one foot in the other? People say that death is just a season of one’s life. Would have to say that I do believe that for most people, it would be the winter of their lives.
Normally, I would try to bottle up these types of feelings … stuff them away until the cork of the bottle precariously held on. I keep mentioning how I am next to patients and families helping them face the unknown future. My big secret is that they are also next to me as I face uncertainty. It’s something that I fear. They just don’t know that they are, while my role is so clearly defined to them. The question I still don’t have the answer to is, who is carrying who to a better place?