I've been thinking about doing this post for a while, kind of a "top ten" list of what I've learned. But I'm not sure I've got 10 things to post and school is still a work in progress, so I'm treating the list the same way. Here is my unfinished, in-progress list of the top things I learned in nursing school.
The best physicians generally aren't good doctors. This of course isn't a hard and fast rule. There are some doctors that I work with who are expert surgeons or diagnosticians and who are also very caring and compassionate human beings. But they are the exception. By and large, the doctors who are the best at what they do plainly stink at how they do it. Family needs or questions are ignored or demeaned and patient needs, insofar as they don't correspond to the doctor's specialty, are treated as secondary when acknowledged at all. For that reason, even if they are the best in the operating room or during a code, they aren't the people I'd want taking care of me. If my prognosis is poor, I'd rather have someone treat me and my family with dignity and respect instead of having a doctor that might give me a few more days of life while treating us like inconveniences.
It is amazing what you can adapt to. When I was young, cleaning up after the dog would send me to the bathroom fighting a fit of gagging and dry heaves. The mere scent of vomit would set me off and the actual sight of puke was almost more than I could take. Rotting garbage, a dead animal, moldy food - the odors were just too much. But now, oh boy, now you could be shooting out of both ends and it wouldn't faze me excepting the knowledge that I'll be the one to clean it up. Also, the...uh...texture and aroma of certain bodily functions can be diagnostic. So I'm definitely over my weak stomach and at odd times find myself sniffing gently in the hospital hall trying to figure out who's got the C. diff and who is just gassy.
If someone says they're going to throw up, its best to take them at their word. And to get out of the way.
Hospitals really do smell funny. I noticed it the very first day I started working in one but forgot all about it until I went in to one to visit someone. Once I was out of my scrubs and just a guy off the street, that smell hit me full force again even though I'm in a hospital 3-4 days a week. That reminded me how bewildering and intimidating the hospital can be for people who aren't used to it.
What we can do to you far exceeds what we can do for you. And the reason, more often than not, that we are doing all of these things to you is because of your family. They can't let you go even though there is no hope for recovery and keeping you alive is only prolonging your suffering. Why? Guilt and fear. Guilt about what is left unsaid or undone, about past wrongs not made right and deep-seated fear about all of our fates. It is generally the conflicted, wounded families that experience so much ambivalence and confusion in the face tragedy. So please, right after you're done reading this, go apologize to those you've hurt and forgive those who have hurt you. Reassure them of your love and forgiveness and remind them about God's. It just may save all of you untold suffering and emotional pain at some unfortunate point in the future. More importantly, it will change that relationship for the rest of your respective lives. And tell at least a few of them in explicit detail exactly what you do and do not want done should you end up laying in an ICU with machines keeping you alive. Maybe, just for fun, put it in writing.