Wednesday, April 1, 2009

To Judge or not to Judge

Again, it has been far too long since I posted an entry. I think it is largely because even now, I am afraid that I will somehow get into trouble for writing about my experiences. I do believe though that as long as I divulge no specifics, I’ll have done nothing more than share my boring life with the world. In any case, I have had an interesting semester so far. Here is a brief list of some of the craziest/saddest/most fascinating stuff:

-Saw a “drive by” birth; i.e. the mother comes rolling down the hall at 9cm dilated with no prenatal care and shoots the baby out within minutes. Oh, and she spoke no English. And my god, she screamed as though she was pushing out a bowling ball covered in razor blades.
-Saw far too many children slowly being eaten up by repeated bouts of cancer
-Caring for and feeding babies so premature they are the size of water bottles
-Two words: necrotizing fasciitis. Due to the misfortune of catching such a horrible infection, my patient passed away just the night after I met her.

There have been other things of course, but the vast majority of my stories are more subtly heartbreaking rather than so mentally or visually disturbing. I have quite a few more days left in my ICU rotation, and I’m sure I’ll see far more depressing, ethically challenging things before I’m done.

Specifically, I cared for an emaciated critically ill man who had been transferred from prison to nursing home to the hospital. He required intensive, detailed, gentle care, and during the day as I watched him grimace and slowly deteriorate I wondered what he had done to land himself in prison. He looked so helpless and childlike, it was hard to imagine the life he'd led. I later found out that he was a murderer. It made me feel strange to know that, but it didn’t change how I felt about him or my day. It’s interesting to learn about patient’s lives – who they love, who they are, what they’ve done, their transgressions. I have to constantly remind myself to not judge patients and their family members for ignoring or neglecting one another. A dying grandfather whose family has deserted him, while appearing sad and lonely, may have been an unremorseful pedophile or abuser. A middle-aged woman’s family may seem calm and relieved after learning of her impending death - not out of malice but out of love – she’ll soon be out of her extended misery. A forlorn bald child with cancer whose family rarely visits – her parents may be doing all they can to make enough money for her treatments.

I know it all sounds cliché and stupid, but I swear, half of this “being a good nurse” stuff is about working through the emotions of it all. Making sure I don’t turn myself one way or the other. Most of all, I'm trying not to judge what goes on in a hospital – almost everyone is at their very best or their very worst, and you have no idea who’s who.

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