3.31.2010

After the Flood

Yes, my nursing adventures continue. My absence from blogging has been the first in about ten years (I'm not about to check to see exactly how long), for comparison I've been an RN for I 22 months. I can't really imagine any other vocation for myself. It hasn't been an easy process, certainly. Sacrifices had to be made, trials were endured, things had to be confronted, not an activity recommended for people sensitive to fluctuations of blood pressure.

When I decided to pursue a degree in nursing, I knew the process would change me fundamentally. I had planned on this. It was a change I had already identified and accepted. Funnily enough, it was a change that seemed most compatible with how I already was. I like to keep things simple that way.

I still work at that same skilled nursing facility I've worked at for 16 months. It feels like home, more home-like than my actual home, really. Nursing home work was the last thing I wanted to do as a student, I had my heart set on either emergency or med-surg.

Working at a skilled nursing facility has been way much more fun than I thought it would be. The learning-curve was VERY steep, since there isn't as much on-the-job training as there is in hospitals, but this is the sort of challenge that I enjoy, chalk it up to stereotypical male risk-seeking behaviors.

Say what you will, supervising a nursing home is EXCITING. Nursing home residents are at the cutting edge of gerontology. Sure, people are "medically stable", but how medically stable can someone be when they've survived heart failure for a decade because of a drug that's only been out for a decade?

The really engaging challenge, of course, isn't clinical or mathematic or even purely scientific. The challenge to preserve the dignity of people who have lost their independence is much more. Maybe not the challenge..the privilege.. to encounter the worst and offer the best. Buddhists in the audience may harmonize with the ideal of alleviating suffering. What better way to alleviate your own?

Skilled nursing facilities are at the forefront of this challenge. It's true that only a small percentage of elders can't live independently, but that small percentage means that it's feasible to provide all of them with Care. Nursing homes and Family caregivers are the vanguard of this issue. Another interesting thing to consider is the mutually beneficial relationship between Nursing and Social Work.

Even though I harbor a deep suspicion that death will be abolished by the time I'm that age, there's still the strong possibility that I will occupy a bed somewhere, some day, where I'm dependent on Nursing Care for my health and well-being. Before I get there, why not contribute as much as possible to the art and science of taking care of people in those situations?

I'm reminded of this as I work alongside the student nurses on their rotation through our facility. Many of them are older than me, of course, but all of their enthusiasm and intelligence bolsters me when things get tough. A partner and I did a bit of research into the system-wide advantages welcoming students into a facility provide, and I have to say I've experienced every one of them and more in just a few shifts.

My short time in the career so far has been bombarded by intrigue, office politics and the rest of the nastiness you would expect, but my enthusiasm for the endeavor remains unbridled.

In truth, It's my best escape from the things that gnaw at me when I'm not at work. A lost Love, missed opportunities, things left unsaid, all of these things can take a back seat when you're making sure some brilliant elderly scientist is allowed to die with dignity. At least, they can take a back-seat until It's my turn...

This is still something I hold out hope for an alternative to. I think we're really close, however you slice it. Resolution of non-destructive brain-scanning, the exponentially increasing curve of technology..if we don't reach immortality than we'll have at least given it a good shot.

Whatever lies ahead, applying all the cleverness and ingenuity I possess to alleviating the suffering of some of the cleverest and ingenious people of our grandparent's generation is an endeavor worthy enough to distract me from my own suffering.

I knew, when I started down this path, that it would probably result in the loss of everyone I loved....

..but then, they were all going to die anyway.

unless...

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