Tag Archives: fears

Entering the Emergency Room

In the wake a devastating tsunami, the nuclear reactor disaster and all the events that have succeeded the earthquake in Japan, it seems somehow appropriate that I begin my integration period tomorrow in the Emergency Room of a bustling metropolitan hospital. When I told the director of my program that I was very interested in Emergency Preparedness as a subspeciality, I had no idea that she would take my interest so seriously and give me an eight-week ER clinical placement. I feel so lucky, and also SO nervous. I am going to try to document this experience, as I work eight weeks under the tutelage and supervision of a RN. I will be taking her normal hours which means 12-hours shifts for a total of 36 hours per week, for 8 weeks.

In my anxiety-flavored preoccupation over what tomorrow will hold, I called my grandfather, for some sage words of advice. In typical fashion, he proffered a few more that I initially asked for, but absolutely helped to assuage my fears. When I told him I was afraid, he reminded me that it was normal to feel scared in a setting where everyone is having personal crises. Nerves run high, but he told me that among emergency personnel, calmness and composure are paramount. He reminded me that people work together in the ED like a well-oiled machine, and that I will never feel stranded. I hope this last part is true. He also told me something that I know: I will feel uncomfortable. I will not feel proficient. I will make mistakes. But then, I will ask questions and I will learn from these mistakes. If I don’t ask a question when I have one, that is the biggest mistake I can make. This is my time for learning, and I will learn.

He also told me that he knows I will be calm in the face of a crisis. I don’t know how he can be sure of this, since I am certainly not sure of myself, but then he told me about the night when my grandma took his own hypertension medication accidentally, and how terrified he felt. In response, he called his cardiologist at home (ah, the benefits of having doctor colleagues) who told him that he could manage the situation on his own, rather than bring her into the ED so late at night. So, my grandpa pushed his fear back and kept it at bay throughout the night while he stayed awake and cared for the love of his life. He told me that he fed her so much coffee, that by the morning he had induced hypertension in my grandma. Not exactly the most settling story for a granddaughter to hear, but very sweet all the same especially since the outcome was good.

My goal for these few weeks is to chronicle my experience, writing down the wisdom of veteran nurses for my future practice as well as the more fun and interesting cases that I run into. Now I just have to wait a few more hours to see what tomorrow has in store…


Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Hospital, Memoir, Nursing School


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Healing me

i want my spoon back!

I don’t like being jobless. I guess it’s one job in particular, though, that I am truly missing. I miss my residents. I miss healing. I miss feeling like I am making a difference simply by being a compassionate person. I thought that I would have all sorts of interesting stories stocked up after coming back from my trip. And I do, I suppose. But the truth is, the simplicity of one-on-one interaction and healing kindness is what I am missing. It would be silly to think that the minute I start nursing school, I will begin having these interactions again. I am aware that there will be a whole mess of textbooks and exams to contend with before I get anywhere near a patient. I can only imagine that the memories of my residents will fade further and further into the background, aging gracefully like an antique photograph. I can’t help wondering when this yearning will go away. I know that my upcoming patient interactions will never feel quite like my resident interactions. I am letting myself feel that, and feel sad about that. The uniqueness of providing one-on-one care for hours upon hours, day after day is not an experience that easy to replicate. I know that I want to be in primary care, providing services to the underserved, but I can’t help wondering whether I will find the same sense of fulfillment in a 10-minute encounter as I did with my residents. Having already experienced some of the difficulties associated with providing counseling and building a provider-patient bridge of trust in such a short time span, I wonder how I will fare with this new challenge. I get nervous about how I will do as a provider. Most superficially, I am concerned about blood and guts. I don’t like ’em. But I know I will get over that. You can only practice drawing blood so many times before you get used to it. Staring at abscesses must get easier with time, right? The human mind is miraculous in its ability to grow accustomed to anything. My deeper doubts lie in my ability to heal in a short time. Will I be able to connect with my patients? Will I feel as though I have made a difference? Will I feel overwhelmed by the suffering and my incomplete capacity to heal? This is where healing has many layers, I suppose. I didn’t really heal my residents. I helped them “live” to their full capacity. I couldn’t repair a blood clot or broken pelvis. But I could take the five extra minutes that it required to let a resident button her own sweater rather than hurriedly do it for her. I could respect another resident’s privacy by making sure to fully close the bathroom door, and knocking before reentering. And on the days that I forgot to do every single on of these small but important things, I didn’t berate myself. I looked for the things I did right. I sought to remember the interactions that would allow me to leave at the end of the day feeling like I helped someone. I can’t sweat the small stuff. Or even all of the big stuff. To try to solve all problems at once is not only impossible, but paralyzing. I don’t want to be paralyzed, I want to make a difference. One by one, and maybe someday a light will blink on, and I will know what has to be done to solve a bigger problem that plagues system of providing care. But for now it’s one person at a time and it all starts with me.

On my trip, I bought a small painting that has this Elie Wiesel quote on it:

The start: But where was I to start? The world is so vast; I will start with the country I know best, my own. But my country is so very large. I had better start with my town. But my town too, is large. I had best start with my street. No; my home. No; my family. Never mind, I shall start with myself”

and in Spanish:

Pero, ¿por donde empezar? El mundo es tan vasto, que empezaré por el país que conozco mejor, el mío propio.  Pero mi país es tan grande que será mejor que comience por mi ciudad. Aunque, en realidad, mi ciudad es también enorme. Será mejor que  principie por mi calle. No, por mi hogar. No, por mi familia. No importa, comenzaré por mí mismo.

What a wise, wise man. Hopefully, he will sit on my shoulder in clinic during those moments when I start looking too big picture.


Posted by on April 23, 2010 in Healing Spoonful, Travels


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