Last night, I returned home from work somewhere around 7pm. I left my house that morning at 7:30. It was a long and exhausting day. The worst part of it was that I was so busy during the day that I had not charted a syllable on any patient. For those that don’t know about hospice nurse charting, it is long, redundant and legitimately the worst part of the gig. And this gig includes disimpacting patients, so you can just imagine.
I pulled into my garage and looked around the inside of my vehicle. Like the tornado warnings we had during the day, the interior looked like one ripped right through it. Took a deep breath and began emptying, throwing away and organizing supplies. I am a little ocd. Feels like I am wrapping up my week if I do that. That and taking a shower – it is my time to reflect, reboot and literally wash the day away.
After the shower, my couch called my name, so, with a plop, I landed on the soft leather. Aside from cold brew coffee, I hadn’t had a thing to eat and to be completely transparent, hadn’t peed until I actually got home. Charting was weighing on my mind, but I needed a few moments to decompress.
Truly, physically, mentally, emotionally and physically, exhausted. Thoughts began to swirl if all of it is worth it. Being a hospice nurse is a huge commitment. It’s not something that you can do poorly. And if you do, it’s your patients that suffer. The hours are long. Your body aches. It’s time away from your family. Your mind is always in two different places.
People will often say that other nursing positions are less exhausting. Sure, if you work in a hospital or facility, you are scheduled for 12 hours and at the end, you clock out and go home. Sure, you might have some things to do after, but, when you leave that building, you leave it all behind. So, why do this hospice thing?
The events of the day began to flow through my thoughts. Why do I do it?
For the patient who cannot speak, but, after care by myself and an amazing aide, was mouthing out “I love you” and blowing kisses.
For the family, who are caring for a patient that has mentally given up. For the information, education and emotional support that when given, gives them strength and wisdom to care for their loved one.
It’s for the confused patient, who because of a broken hip was placed in the facility. People assumed that she was aggressive and combative because she was not always complainant with care. Approaching her softly and reassuring her, managed to do a complete bed bath, which had not been done in weeks. With that amazing aide, while rolling her, she began to act out. I went closer to her face and softly told her she was not going to fall. As tears filled her eyes, she said she was scared. Her arms wrapped around my neck and she pulled me close, hugging me with all of the strength she could muster. I held onto her and kept whispering how she was going to be ok. As we finished up and tucked her in, she squeezed her stuffed animal and her face had a peace that I had never before seen. When I reported off, the staff were speechless at the level of care provided. If you love what you do, your heart takes over and pours out.
It is for the family, who when they greeted us at the door, were so overwhelmed that they were nearly in tears. They had been unable to care for the patient and despite medications, she had been awake and unruly for hours. She was in bed, not a hospital bed, but care had to be done. It’s for discovering terrible wounds that have to be agonizing. The time that it takes to care for all the needs often exceed the recommended visit times. Screw the times. If I have to climb into a bed, shoes off and remain in there until care is done, I do it. It’s for the relief in the face of the caregivers who couldn’t find the right words to express their appreciation.
Finally, it’s for the lovely gentleman, who by this time had eaten his dinner (that’s just how late it was) whose face lit up and exclaimed “I am so happy you are here! I thought I was forgotten. I prayed I wasn’t and God heard my prayers!”
I am no one special. I am confident that there are many others that are lead by their hearts and guided by their knowledge. Caring for people isn’t something that can be timed. The human factor prevents that from happening. So, if you have an exhausted and overwhelmed nurse, aide, doctor and any other health professional, this blog is hopefully an insight to what is going on in their thoughts. Could I do something easier and for more money? Sure. Will I? Not as long as my body holds up. Money and benefits are not always the best rewards. Most often, the best payments for our efforts are non tangible but felt in the heart. This is where I am called to be.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart” Helen Keller
“Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever had.” Margaret Meade.
We may not change the world.
We just change our patient’s and family’s worlds.