I was at the gym earlier today and while I was working out, I started listening to a lecture by NT Wright given at Open Forum on his recent book Simply Christian. In the opening remarks, Bishop Wright makes a point about the shadow that hangs over our existence. Even when things are working out perfectly, which they often aren't, there is always a shadow hanging over us. Be it death or the inevitable disappointment that things aren't quite as wonderful as they first seemed, there exists a certain hollowness in all of our endeavors that is engendered by the inevitable march of seemingly infinite time. He raises the example of a person who loves music, particularly the works of Bach or Beethoven, who deeply desires the opportunity to study the work of these masters in college. But as these studies unfold, the magic of the music is lost, its engaging mystery fades and the once-ardent passion is blighted, sometimes taking years to regenerate, if ever. I think that accurately describes my own feelings towards nursing at the moment.
With the start of this semester, I am struggling to find the draw that propelled me so forcefully through the previous three. My new job is, I think, one of the reasons for this dwindling motivation. I now work in a surgical-trauma intensive care unit as a student nursing assistant. This job not only pays more, but affords me the opportunity to practice many more hands-on nursing skills. With appropriate supervision, I assess patients, chart their condition, administer medicines, hang IV's and review labs & diagnostic procedures. I get to see the stuff I'm studying first hand. And I'm discovering that this work is very different than what I thought it was. It is quite challenging at times, with some patients requiring constant vigilance and activity to keep them from going bad, but in many situations, the work is actually quite tedious. We administer drugs, we monitor for complications, but their doesn't seem to be many opportunities to develop relationships with the patients or their families. There isn't much of a chance to alleviate fear or to offer support. Part of that, I'm sure, is due to my own lack of knowledge and experience in this setting. I can't tell a family member that things are looking up or that the patient is making improvement because I honestly don't know if they are. I don't know if certain complications are normal or extremely worrisome. I don't know enough to be able to offer an opinion that is worth anything. And while I know intellectually that this will change, that my knowledge and experience will grow and that this will afford me more opportunities to engage the human elements of nursing that I love, that day seems very distant right now. Right now I'm slogging through the entirely mundane elements of school and learning, focusing on the little details of conditions, medicines, charting, etc, that, when added together, make for a strong nurse, but when taken individually, as I am forced to at the moment, are disheartening and dull.
In a way, I know this is good. I am learning more about myself, more about what kind of nurse I want to be and what setting I will thrive in. But right now, looking at the calendar of 3 more semesters of long, hard work, it is a heavy weight.