Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the making of a nurse

I start my first day of preceptorship tomorrow. I don't know why I am so nervous, I guess I haven't been using any of my practical nursing skills in awhile.

I don't know if any of you nurses or soon-to-be nurses have heard about the author Tilda Shalof. She is a Canadian author and nurse with a background in Intensive Care. I have read A Nurse's Story and the Making of a Nurse, and I think for anyone who is not in the nursing profession, she provides an interesting insiders view about what it is like to work in healthcare. But I think anybody studying nursing would benefit most from reading her books. She talks about all of her crazy experiences working in the ICU and paints an interesting picture of the good aspects and challenges of working as a nurse.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book The Making of a Nurse.

"Why had so much changed? Health care is expensive and stretched to the limit, new technologies are available but human needs are still the same. Perhaps in our infatuation with technology, we have strayed too far from ensuring that people's most fundamental requirements are met: food, clean water, hygiene, relief, comfort, education, solace, safeguarding, monitoring, rescuing, kindness, human touch, and beauty - all within the domain of nursing. Whether it's cardiac nursing or pediatrics, public health or camp nursing, it comes down to these things".

"I no longer differentiate between the person I am and the nurse I've become. Nursing is my profession and my way of life. It is a deep and abiding concern for the human condition. We are all nurses - or have the capacity to be - and we are all patients - or have the potential to be. I owe nursing a lot. It saved my life many times. Through the discipline of taking care of patients, I learned how to take care of myself. By finding compassion for my own suffering, I developed more compassion for others. Nursing showed me how to be joyful despite my own sadness. It has given me awareness of the world's suffering and the skills and knowledge to do something toward its alleviation. It has taught me how to love things I never thought I could love".

"I often wonder: Who would want ot be a nurse, especially if they knew what it really entails? Who chooses nursing these days and why? I ask these questions honestly and open-mindedly, not rhetorically or cynically. Nursing is not a career you can advise or persuade someone ot choose and it is a hard path to champion if you have not perosnally experienced its many satisfactions. I'm quite sure that the vast majority choose it because of a genuine desire to help others, but one nursing student told me nursing attractied him because "the salary is decent and it's steady work." Another told me she really wanted medicine, but didn't get in and nursing was her fallback. I'm afraid these motivations aren't going to cut it when those nurses enter a patient's room and are faced with raw human suffering. Nursing is dirty, gritty, messy, grinding, brutal, rough, and heartbreaking. It is also inspiring, sophisticated, challenging, fun, comforting, and at times exhilirating".

I really admire Tilda Shalof because she is passionate about bedside nursing - which is more or less viewed as a stepping stone on the way towards an administrative position for lots of new nursing graduates. I can't imagine I'd enjoy a position sitting in a beige office somewhere, performing tasks that are mostly unrelated to everything I've learned in school, when there is so much to learn and so much opportunity to grow by directly taking care of patients.