Nervous anticipation, fear, uneasiness, sadness and an eagerness to learn the ropes. I’d say all of those things smooshed together is exactly how I felt this morning. That feeling of uncertainty because I don’t know what I am doing is almost overwhelming. Sure, I can assess a patient – but, I look for signs of life and not signs of impending death. Guess, what? That’s how the cookie is going to crumble from now on.
The patients today were all very sweet and kind… some older, some not so old. All pleasant and happy to see their usual RN (I was kind of an added bonus.. a little tagalong.. Kept having to say “I’m a new hospice nurse, but, an old nurse in general”). I wasn’t sure how to really introduce myself or what I should and shouldn’t say. I let the usual RN take the lead. Some had family around… some were in a nursing home. Some could talk… some could not. One was actively dying… I don’t imagine that she will make it through this evening. She was staring off… like those about to pass do… What was she seeing? Do you see whatever awaits us in the afterlife as you are dying so that you aren’t fearful?
I’m not sure the answer to that question and I don’t know that any of us, with any degree of certainty, will be able to correctly answer it. I would love to imagine that it is that way. Her daughter was next to her.. telling her that she would be ok and that it was ok for her to let go. Flashbacks flooded my mind, because about 4 years ago, I was doing the same.. not as a nurse, but as a daughter.
I don’t know how people do it.. How they are able to compartmentalize things… How they are able to not bring their own personal experiences into things. I can tell ya’ll right now that it is not that way for me. The rich tapestry of experiences that I have had will play into being a hospice nurse. In a lot of ways, I know that it might make me a better one because I will be able to understand the feelings, be they good or bad, that my patients and families are experiencing.
So, my first real day as a labor and delivery nurse of death is complete. Life is such a fleeting idea. It sounds cliche but this makes me want to hug my loved ones harder. It makes me want to not give up. I don’t just think hospice nursing will make me a better nurse, but, it will make me a better person.