Thursday, July 5, 2007

Why I am a Nurse...

A week ago today I put together a conference titled "Pediatric and Neonatal Palliative Care". As I was preparing for this conference I had time to reflect on why I chose to become a nurse. With the nursing shortage today, nurses are faced with long hours and heavy patient assignments. But, what draws people to this field?

Part of my new job is to educate the hospital staff on how to provide palliative care to patients. Palliative Care is similar to Hospice but it can be used in conjunction with curative treatment. You do not need to be in the last six months of your life to receive Palliative Care.

Palliative Care is defined as "a commitment is to provide compassionate and personal care, as well as practical and spiritual support to the entire family.
The focus is on meeting the medical, spiritual, and emotional needs and to provide support to everyone caring for them. Making every last moment together special."

This leads me to why I know I made the right choice to become a nurse. Probably since birth I loved anything to do with the medical field. This idea was confirmed when I was in high school and my Nana became very ill and hospitalized in the ICU. I loved everything about the hospital environment... the excitement, the care, and the kindness of my Nana's nurses and doctors.

My Nana passed away during this stay at the hospital and was taken care of by Dr. Hughes. Dr. Hughes is now and has always been a pro Palliative Care doctor. I now work with him in the ICU with the Palliative Care Project.

Even though it was not called "Palliative Care" back when my Nana was ill this is how the staff at the hospital cared for her. They coordinated family meetings so we were always updated on her condition; they were truthful with my Nana and asked her what her wishes were; they honored her wishes; and they provided wonderful spiritual care to my Nana and our family. When they took my Nana off the ventilator, one of the last things I remember doing was to getting her a diet coke, her favorite. I am sure the hospital staff knew this extra fluid was not good for my Nana but they honored her wishes.

After my Nana passed I said to myself, "I will be a nurse and I want to work at the same hospital as she was cared for". Even as a high school kid I realized the staff at this hospital had heart, passion and a spiritual dimension.

17 years later, I am living my dream. I am working at this same hospital, working with the same physician who cared for my Nana, and teaching others the importance of palliative care.

How life completes a full circle.

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