Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Nightingale Diaries

Happy New Year to all in the Cyber Village! 
It has been awhile.  I have not a single excuse - have just been doing life.  Autumn came and went.  The Holidays were joyous and full of family and friends.  Winter on the Sound has been pretty calm so far.    This week end we had a dusting of snow in my neighborhood but some surrounding areas received an inch or two.  Probably provides a chuckle to neighbors in Alaska, the Rockies and back East…they are busy with an onslaught of snow, not just a dusting.  The Long Dark is still upon the land but I notice that the sunset is a tiny bit later than last month and that is always a simple pleasure.
I’ve made a New Year’s resolution.  Have been giving some thought to retiring in a year or two.  Who knows for sure…could be working for years to come but on the happy off chance that I do not have to have to continue to work, I thought I would introduce you to some of the many lovely people I’ve know / work with the Nursing profession.  I wrote out a list of about 15 questions.  Each volunteer hears and responds to the same list.  The answers are both similar and different.  I hope you will enjoy meeting these men and women.  My "A" goal is to give a face and voice to the health care professionals in Long Term.The "B" goal is to write one interview a week for 50 weeks.  Here is the first installment of the “Nightingale Diaries”:


Meet Jenn:
Jenn is a young woman who is a single mom devoted to her family and her patients.  She LOVES the color purple, has a bubbly personality and a radiant smile.  She has been a nurse for about two years and obtained her education at Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon.  She started out as a certified nursing assistant (C.N.A.).  Jenn shared that while working in that role she realized that several nurses around her were ‘burned out’ (some might say that is too tired to care – will write about burn out in health care another time).  It inspired her to try harder.  She discovered she could be a really good C.N.A. so why not a good nurse!  She became particularly good at caring for elders with dementing illnesses.  She enjoyed volunteering for the Activities Department.  She was intrigued by the moments of “lucidity” that certain reminiscent  groups stimulated in her Residents.  She told me that she reads text books in her spare time to make sure she stays abreast of her professional duties.  Jenn said she “loves caring for residents with memory issues”.  It motivates her to be “a voice” for people who are not able to speak up for themselves. 

When I asked what was the most difficult part of her work she answered: “I pack a lot of it home.  I wasn’t expecting it to be so consuming.”  She is particularly unhappy when she finds that “care has not been good”.  Does death bother her?  “I think it is a relief for my old Residents”.  She likes to imagine that “all the pain and suffering is over, that wherever they are that their life is a big smorgsboard of their favorite foods and no one ever has to give them mashed pills in applesauce ever again”.  To which I would add “AMEN”.
Asked if she socializes with nurses she said ‘yes’, in fact, her best friend in an RN in Washington D.C.  “We talk and text.  We understand.  Others don’t know how I put up with so much loss.” 
What does she like best?  “Being able to make that ‘flip’” she answered with a smile,  “When I can help someone feel happy when they were feeling afraid or angry.”  What does she like least?  “Staffing” she answers firmly.   That response from a nurse almost always means not having enough people to do the job.  Hospital nurses might have anywhere from 4 to 10 patients.  Long term care nurses have around 30 or more patients.  She went on to say “care givers are often paid less and are sometimes poorly motivated.”  She stated that one bad care giver can undo what a good team put together.

Her worst moment as a nurse: she told me that one of her patients got lost in an enclosed court yard.  No harm came to the resident but finding the resident lost, afraid, and weeping by a bush made our Jenn feel sad and helpless.  She said “I wasn’t sure what to do fast enough but God gave me a knack for soothing people “ so that was the strength she called on and in the end all was well. 

Her most embarrassing moment:  “I totally dropped the ball on a scheduled appointment (for a Resident).  I’m not easily embarrassed.  I know what I know.”  But she knows when she has made a mistake she is humble and does her best to learn from it.   When asked if she was politically active she said “No.  I think nurses should be but I am not yet.”  She does not belong to any nursing organizations yet either.  That is also on her personal-professional “To Do List”.  She is not active in any church right now.  She tried a local Baptist church but felt there was not enough for the teenage child.  She says she is “spiritually ground” and has a “strong sense of what is right and what is wrong” so that is joined what she calls a “strong moral compass”.  In her young life she was a foster child.  Life was better if she learned to choose “right”.  Her experiences there “brought God” into her life.  How does she relax after work?  “My Mom lives with me and my son.  We play air hockey or we watch TV.”               
Does she think she is a ‘professional’?  She said that she received the employee of the year award.  That acknowledgement boosted her self-esteem.  She came to her work as a single parent just out of a bad relationship.  She trained as an RN but after graduation took some time to work with her child who has ADHD.  Then she took the LPN boards.  In the not too distant future she will study for the RN boards.  She says she does not separate herself from the direct care givers (assistants).  “I try to treat everyone with respect.  When I come to work I take off my girly hat and put on my professional hat.”
That brings me to the end of the first of fifty installments.  Each nurse’s story is on-going so there is no easy way to transition out of the interview, or at least I've not found it yet.  Thanks for sharing this glimpse of  “Nurse Jenn” with me