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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's a Calling


Yesterday was my first day of orientation to the mega-bureaucracy called the Medical Center of Central Georgia. It was long and boring and exhausting, but I was getting paid to be there! We have only half a day today, then I report for work in the Hospice unit which is off site and not very far from my house.

I had begun to think this day would never come, and now that it’s upon me, I am just as excited as a little girl on the first day of first grade. I have missed being a nurse - not counting, of course, the years I spent nursing Clint before his death.

Hospice, I have come to believe, is a calling for me. I can’t imagine working in any other area of nursing. Patients and their families have a right to a dignified and peaceful and pain-free dying process. And it is a process, much like any other change. I love dealing with the patients. That goes without saying. Many times, though, the families feel left out of the loop, and frightened, and sometimes they are even afraid to be in the room with their dying loved ones.

I think of the entire family as my “patient.” Families need to know what to expect, and most especially, they deserve permission to begin their grieving as their loved ones lies dying. Many don’t want to look sad or cry in the presence of the one they are losing. Someone has to give them permission, to say to them, “It’s okay for Grandma to know you are sad. She knows she is leaving us, and it’s okay for you to let her know how much you will miss her.”

Every case is different, though, and each person must handle death in his own way. I want to be there for them, not matter how they manage their pending loss. There is no secret formula for this kind of work, but there is a secret formula to dealing with each situation - listen. Yes, listening is as important as the drugs we supply as comfort measures, the tender care we give to any and every little issue with the patient. By listening to the families - and to the patients - we can build a bridge to understanding. Not a bridge to acceptance; that comes much later.

This job will reactivate my grief, no doubt, but I want to use that energy to help others deal with their own private corner of hell.

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