Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Reflection on Shalom

It's almost midnight and I can't get my mind to shut off.

Today is St. Patrick's Day which I'm sure in most other people's minds is a cause for celebration. Being Irish myself, it's of course just another excuse for every single person to drink and say stereotypical things thinking they are Irish.

However, today is a cause for celebration because it's the first day since nursing school started that I've really had a full day to relax! Granted I still didn't do that, but it was a day to do so.

I was able to sleep in a little bit, had to run an errand to help my brother, and once back home I started organizing a few things and then got to work on some DIY-ing :-) Couldn't help it.

I watched a couple documentaries, broke the washing machine, you know, just the usual things ;-)

I have to work tomorrow and I went to bed awhile ago but unlike usual I find myself tossing and turning more than usual. I can't get my brain to shut off so naturally it goes any and everywhere.

It landed quite heavily upon reflecting at my time at Shalom Home. For our Foundations of Nursing class we had to do a 16-hour clinical that was basically meant to help those who have never before been in a clinical setting or ever taken care of someone the opportunity to get used to touching and talking to other people.

I don't think that going to a long-term care facility where dementia is prevalent is quite the way to do that but we all found ourselves in various long-term care facilities. I willingly chose Shalom Home as it has an underlay of Judaism, and that peaked my curiosity.

But it comes down to the geriatric population is the geriatric population. It's a special population within itself that has a lot of trials and tribulations. Taking care of kids is no easy task but I can say taking care of kids, in my opinion, is easier. The geriatric and pediatric population are similar in some ways. They are both highly dependent on the caregivers, need varying degrees of assistance, need a lot of direction. However, there is still a difference. Kids are naturally smaller and cuter. Kids have a positive energy and hope for a future. Not so much with the geriatric population.

A large majority of the time, those in long-term care are depressed, have dementia, are stubborn or mean, are altered, and are hard to work with. They aren't cute and cuddly like children. And it takes a special sort of patience to interact with patients who repeat the same sentence over-and-over-and-over.

With that being said, there is still a certain amount of humanity that comes in taking care of people. And I sit here reflecting on my time at Shalom, which is preceded by a large foundation of taking care of the geriatric population...from taking care of my dying grandmother, to working home health care, to working in an assisted living facility, including the Alzheimer's unit. There is a certain amount of respect, dignity, humanity, and compassion due each individual, no matter their health state. There is a certain way you treat and care for others.

What I find myself dwelling over are the many instances of things I didn't agree with. Call lights not being answered when the residents need assistance, telling the residents what/when they should be doing things (when that is in fact their home), sometimes imprisoning them in their chairs or beds, attitudes and words used. I reflect on the abuse and neglect that I experienced at the assisted care facility. And I find myself dwelling on how caregivers interact with patients.

I don't know anyone who willingly chooses to have their body and mind deteriorate to the point that they rely on others, sometimes without any form of communication to those who are caring for them. I don't know anyone who willingly wants to suffer in that manner. But I do know that as a caregiver/provider, it is within my power to maintain the sacredness of being human, and of relieving suffering, in many different manners.

To me, it is unacceptable that caregivers forget that these residents were once vibrant young people, like you and I, who independently made their own choices, dressed to the nines, raised families, had careers, hobbies, interests (outside of going to the dining hall). Therefore, when someone is completely reliant upon me, it is my duty to maintain dignity, respect, privacy, and maintain that connection to others.

I don't agree with nursing homes. My parents will never be put in one if it is at all within my power and doing. I can't imagine my parents being treated, neglected, or thought of in the way that a lot of these caregivers treat the residents. In fact, it breaks my heart to think about it.

But it also makes me think, what is in store for my future? My parents have me, a very passionate and compassionate person who is more acutely aware of the healthcare system and long-term care facilities. I don't believe they are at all the answer, in any way shape or form. I will be an advocate until the end for my parents. But what is in store for my future? As someone who has yet to have a desire for children, will there be anyone there in my future to provide for me if I start to lose my physical or mental faculties? Or will they put me in one of these facilities that I so loathingly hate? Or will I have anyone at all, if I never have children?

I hate being in them to take care of others, because of how flawed and awful the system is. I can already tell you one of my worst nightmares would be to wind up in one of them as a resident. Especially with how social and independent I am. And how particular I am about the way healthcare providers take care of others. What is in store for my future? And how can I make an impact in the current system? So many things going through my brain....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


It's hard for me to capture life as a nursing student. It's inexplicable chaos being in the accelerated program. I spend my days trying to figure out what's going on half the time. It's no big deal to have three exams in one week. I spend a significant amount of time going over pwpt's and searching through reems of paper (powerpoints, activities, etc).

But with this week having been so delightful to us, I do have some snapshots of a few moments of relaxation spent out on the grass in the commons area at Regis U. I've been thoroughly enjoying getting to wear flip-flops and the warmth of the sunshine on my face!! Here's a few snapshots I've been able to quickly snap with my camera phone!

 Just a snapshot of me actually wearing makeup and my hair done up 
(before my brother's wedding)
 a day spent studying with J meant some EtOH was involved :-) 
mmm Gimlets!
 oh how i love that flip-flop weather!!
 isn't it bliss to just sit underneath a tree, relax, and look up at this brilliant blue sky?
sure is a nice way to breathe in between exams!
apparently those minnesota-ins aren't used to this weather nor being so close to the sun!
J protecting himself and appearing like he has kyphosis
after a day spent taking 3 exams...WOOT done with that! 

Spring 5W2...with a new perspective

Wow, another five weeks almost done and gone!! It's hard to believe that as someone who loves writing, reflecting, and getting my thoughts out, that I haven't really had time to sit down and really think about much, other than the next exam or figuring out what class I need to be in.

This past five weeks has been even crazier than the previous five, though I at first didn't think that was possible. I just finished my Foundations of Nursing Course, and I'm pretty positive I aced it. I'll find out my grade later. Just finished my last test in there so I have to wait for a few class things to be graded.

I have a few more exams this week, but they are all bench-marking exams, called ATI Testing. It's a way for us to find out where we rank in our testing skills to all the other nurses in the nation.

It's all smooth sailing from here.

However, the more I go on in this program, the more and more my perspective is beginning to change. It's very easy for one to get caught up in the rigors of the program and start to alter one's perspective about what is "right" and "wrong" is nursing. What constitutes a "good" or "great" nurse and so-on and so-forth. It's easy to get caught up in what is the evidence-based practice standard of providing care and what is "wrong", etc.

I have realized that though I love the clinical setting, and I love the critical care aspect (and fully plan on being immersed in that sort of nursing for awhile after graduation), that it isn't the only form of nursing out there. I temporarily forgot how huge of a proponent I am of holistic medicine, of the body's ability to heal itself, and of the importance of balance. I temporarily forgot a lot of what I stand for and believe.

(Funny I should mention balance when I'm not exactly practicing that for my own health!)

The more I go on in this program, the easier it is for me to just sit back, relax, and enjoy it and get back to my own beliefs and ideals about health care and providing quality nursing care. I'm becoming better at reconciling what I'm learning now and how it will influence my nursing practice as I go forward.

My classmates are also becoming constant reminders of what I don't care about and what I don't stand for.

Our generation and society is marked by comfort and materialism. Being surrounded by this every day stands as a sharp reminder of things I honestly don't give a shit about.

The majority of my classmates are wrapped up in getting that oh-so-coveted "A", and everything surrounds their grades, and doing a skill "correctly". If we aren't following that, or if something isn't allowing one their "A", it's a constant freak-out and bitch fest.

Now I'm not always the MOST laid-back person though I do pat myself on the back for being able to pretty comfortably flow with the ebbs and detours of life. However, a good grip of my classmates make me feel like I am as peaceful as Ghandi himself (that should be saying something). And as each day, each freak-out, each bitch session comes forward, I am becoming more acutely aware how ridiculous life can be sometimes.

It's so hard to take that seriously when there are much bigger problems happening each and every day around the world. There are children starving domestic and international, there are needless and mindless wars all over the globe, homeless families who simply need a break, people dying of cancer, etc. And there are people around the world who are doing things that are actually making a huge difference, not just in the "gold-standard" way of properly inserting an NG tube into the next patient but people who are fighting for peace, justice, and health. Those who are out there quietly scrapping all means possible to help in areas of public health and injustice to fight the bigger battles of life. People who are donating time, money, and possibly various body tissues to help others. The nurses around the world who are for the young, old, and special needs are the ones who I take seriously.

I don't want to be a nurse who sits in a comfortable hospital and caters to the comfortable health of those here, who simply are having appendectomies. I want to help premature neonates have a chance at a healthful life. I want to work with kids with special needs and cancers who need a quiet strength. I want to work with those around the world who don't have access to the same healthcare we have (where things such as sterile insertion of nasogastric tubes aren't such huge matters....but rather simply getting the proper vaccines is the battle of life and death). That's where I want to be. That's what matters to me.

No patient is ever going to look at me and ask whether I'm a 4.0 nurse, a 3.6 nurse or a 3.0 nurse. They are simply going to know that I've had the proper training, done well enough to get my nursing licensure, and am now there to practice to the best of my abilities. My abilities that include perseverance, hardwork, dedication, caring, humor, strength and compassion. Not my ability to get an A in a class or my ability to memorize every line of information in a book.

So this is where I sit today. I'm getting ready to start the first clinical I'm a little bit anxious and a little bit excited. The sun is shining, I'm wearing my trusty flip-flops, and have a full belly. I have some wonderful people in my life and an excellent God by my side. And that's really all that matters right now. Nursing school is important, and huge for me right now, as it's the foundation for my nursing career. But it's not the only thing that matters, and it's not the end-all of my life right now.

So with that, I'm onto take another exam, and I'm going to crush it ;-)