Every hug was a victory dance… A goodbye story

I am an oncology nurse. Saying goodbye and grief comes with the job. However, no matter how accustomed I am to this, it is never easy. And no matter how experienced I get with this there are patients who will always leave such a mark on my life that saying goodbye to them will be like losing a part of myself. Today, I said goodbye to one of those patients.
 
**details have been changed and left out to respect the identity of this patient**
 
I first met this patient last summer. She was coming to us with her second primary cancer. She is a young mom. She was well versed in the cancer and chemo world already. She is gracious, compassionate, has a beautiful smile, is one of the fiercest fighters I have ever met, and has taught me so much in the last months I have gotten to spend with her. Even if I could share all the details of this patient, I could not clearly put into words what an amazing woman she is.
 
This patient is one of the ones who hasn’t handled chemo well at all, in fact, she is absolutely miserable with chemo. We had every medication on board possible and every alternative treatment we could come up with, but no matter what the nausea came like clockwork. Despite the nausea though, we together as a team would battle through the chemo with one goal in sight… to give her just a little more time with her children.  And just a few months ago when she had a clear scan, we danced and hugged and celebrated together.
 
The type of cancer she has though is one where over 60% of patients with this cancer die within a year of diagnosis… and patients diagnosed when this cancer had already metastasized (spread to other parts of the body) are normally given only a max of 6 months. This disease is awful. But this brave patient stared it straight in the face and lived beyond that 6 months. Unfortunately though, because her disease is so bad that clean scan didn’t last long…
 
Last week I saw her for what I now know will be the last time. In my head I knew it would probably be the last time I would see her.. there is a 6th sense you develop after walking with so many people in their last days.. but there is always that twinge of hope… that maybe just maybe things will turn around. But they haven’t and chances are they won’t.
 
Today her mom called into the clinic stating they wanted to give an update. A few minute later before I could realize what was going on there were 3 of us on speaker phone with her as we said our goodbyes. Her body is shutting down and the cancer is winning. And this woman that has taught me so much in the last few months will soon leave this earthly home for her eternal home. I am so beyond thankful for the absolute amazing opportunity to walk with her through her cancer battle. I am so incredibly thankful for the things she has taught me about life. I said it to her and I mean it, I will remember her for the rest of my life. And some of her final words to me will stick with me forever… “Erica every time you gave me a hug at the end of each chemo it was like our victory dance… we did it… we made it through another one…” And as she said those words… I realized just how much a simple hug can mean to someone.
 
It is for this reason  and these moments that I will grieve. I will walk through these awful emotions that go with letting go of someone who has been a part of your life. It is for this that I will allow myself room to heal. It is for moments like this that I will continue to be the best nurse I can… even on the worst of days… even on days where I feel burnt out. I will put my every effort into giving them my all even when, especially when I feel like I have nothing left to give.
 
I will march through every little victory I can with my patients. Because I am their chemo nurse and I want them to know they don’t have to walk this battle alone.

I need cancer patients

The amazing nurses I work with

I was debating on my blog topic for this week while sitting and watching the Superbowl. And then the Chevy commercial came on. I wasn’t quite sure what it was about, but the look on the wife’s face were tears of appreciation and joy and the look on the husband’s face of thankfulness and complete adoration reminded me of so many relationships I’ve witnessed within my job. And then came the truth, it was exactly about that. February 4, 2014 is world cancer day. And while I’m not a Chevy fan, I appreciate that they spent their Superbowl money to raise awareness. Check out the commercial:

I’ve had this thought running through my head for a few weeks about how it is viewed that my patients need me. They need me to draw their blood, take their vitals, listen to their symptoms and help manage them, help make things clear and explain things, teach them about different things, give them their medications, listen to their struggles, and so much more. Even on the toughest days… the days where I struggle to smile or struggle to focus I know without a doubt I was made to be a nurse; specifically a nurse to cancer patients. It is on these days of struggle that I especially need cancer patients.

I feel strange saying that I need cancer patients, but it is true. I want to make it clear… I have a strong dislike, really a hate, for cancer and wish that it didn’t exist, but I have first hand witnessed how something so ugly can produce some of the most beautiful stories.  These patients and their families make my life so much richer. Through their battles I learn so much. Through their love for each other I learn so much. Through their ability to show their struggles I learn so much. My absolute favorite aspect of my job is sitting down and talking with these patients and their loved ones. It is knowing that at the end of the day I just don’t put medications in them and draw their blood, but that I truly have spent time with them. That when things get tough, they trust me.

I think back on some of my favorite patient stories, and to be honest they are often hard stories, but beauty within them. The young dad who was going home on hospice, but still chose to enjoy every moment he could with his wife and son despite the excruciating pain he was in. The middle aged woman who thought I was crazy because I wouldn’t leave her side when she had elevated blood pressure, but smiled at me. I had the privilege of taking care of her almost every shift and her smile sticks in my head and heart. She had a grace about her that few have. One day I came in and I remember the shock I had as I heard she was actively dying. I had the privilege of knowing this incredible woman, and I had the privilege of taking care of her in her last few hours. Her grace shined through in her final breaths.

I remember the man who had ulcerative colitis and on top of that a new diagnosis of cancer. He had a longer medical history than almost anyone I’ve ever seen. I took care of him for 3 nights in a row. On night one he could barely sit up on his own. By night 3 he was getting out of bed and walking. I have rarely seen such courage, hard work, and determination. It was through this patient I learned what determination truly looks like.

I could talk for hours about the love I have witnessed in so many husbands eyes as they look at their wives. Often these women have lost all their hair, many have had mastectomies, and their color is gone. Their physical beauty is altered by all of this and normally many scars. But this is where I’ve witnessed what true love looks like. Because in these husbands eyes all I saw was love; pure adoration for their wives. It has been in these stories I’ve been challenged not to settle. To find a love that is as true as these that I’ve seen.

Just last week while my patient is facing cancer, which makes so many of my battles seem insignificant, a very special patient wrote ME a note of encouragement. I had had a very bad week (you can read about it here) and this patient was encouraging ME. It is true when I say, I need cancer patients. They make my life so much richer. And I am so blessed and thankful to call myself a nurse of cancer patients.

So as world cancer day is here (or possibly it is after it as you are now reading this), I want to challenge you. Challenge you to learn the stories of the wonderful people who face cancer daily. Challenge you to see how you can help raise money to fight this horrible disease. Challenge you to join in supporting these wonderful people during or after their battle. Challenge you to walk alongside the loved ones of those who have faced this disease not directly, but through walking this battle with a loved one. I promise you won’t regret learning their stories.

Trust me when I say, you will not regret getting to know these incredible stories and these incredible people.

How are you going to fight?

3 of my favorite oncology RDs and I

On a final note we want to share in the rejoicing of a miracle of baby Charlie. His mother shared their story here: But this only happens to other people Christa shared this incredible news on facebook just the other day and we are SO excited for baby Charlie and his parents:

“I know many of you have been following our journey, and I just have to let you know about our latest miracles. A little over two weeks ago we began patching Charlie’s good eye with an eye patch daily in effort to strengthen the bad eye. The Dr. said that “we could not patch enough”. I had high hopes that he would see to of that eye immediately, and things would be great. This unfortunately was not the case. It was very difficult to watch Charlie’s happy demeanor change every time we patched him. He would hang his head and just check-out. He would not respond at all to Scott or I visually and that was pretty heartbreaking. It seemed cruel to me to be putting him through this, but we knew we had to stay with it. We began to pray. Jesus healed the blind in the Bible, right? God has brought Charlie this far, so why wouldn’t he continue to work in his little life? So we continued to patch, but I needed an attitude adjustment with it. Patching was something I dreaded because Charlie didn’t enjoy it, and it’s unbelievably difficult to keep an eight month old engaged for a couple hours a day when he can’t see. I tried new things everyday to stimulate his other senses, but I was definitely running out of ideas. I was reading one morning in my devotional, Jesus Calling (highly recommend!) and it challenged me to thank God for the very things that were troubling me. Patching immediately came to mind! It hit me that I really should be thankful for the very opportunity to patch Charlie’s eye – just 6 months ago we were given a 0% chance of saving his eye. Six months ago the idea and patching and the possibility of having vision let alone an eye were out of the question. How sad that I quickly forgot how far God has brought us. What a mammoth perspective shift! Thank you Lord for that wake-up call. Anyways, that was on the 27th. Yesterday on the 29th Charlie showed his first glimpses of vision in that eye. While we had him patched yesterday he responded with a smile to Scott’s silent silly faces. I’m typing through the tears right now because I just really feel like we once again witnessed God’s healing hand on our boy. Charlie also reached for and successfully obtained two remotes intentionally. This was amazing! So today we patched again, but this time I laid the remotes out on the floor and he crawled to them! What an amazing God we serve. So we continue to pray for progress and sight, and be thankful for the very things that are troubling us. I’ll try to get a video of it tomorrow and post – it’s truly amazing!”

Ways you can help:
Kim’s Fundraising Page
Denis’s St. Jude fundraising page

“I believe in what you are doing…” A blog about grief

I remember the evening of January 19, 2010 like it was yesterday. I was in my 3rd week of nursing school when I had what I didn’t know was my final conversation with my grandpa. It pained me to speak to him because he sounded so weak. He died early in the morning on January 20. As of yesterday, that day now represents the day my family’s dog Maddie also entered into heaven as well. It was sudden and she was only 5 years old, but she died doing something she absolutely loved, barking. While I adored Maddie and will miss her sweet nature as she rested her head on my leg to be pet, the hardest part was speaking to my mom over the phone and hearing her gut wrenching sobs and not being able to bridge the 160 mile gap between us.

I’m a cancer nurse. I face the reality of the fact that death is very real every single day. I’ve walked with families through what “hospice” and “comfort care” means. I’ve educated family members on ways that we as health professionals know that death is near. I’ve whispered in the ear of patients “it is ok to let go”.   I’ve listened to a chest and heard no heartbeat and had to say to families “I’m sorry your loved one is gone”. I’ve taken that body that no longer contains life cleaned it up and placed it in a bag. I’ve rolled it down to the morgue and left it there. I’ve comforted the family as they were grieving. I’ve cried with families as the reality sets in that that person’s soul is no longer on this earth. I’ve filled out the death papers. I’ve called in the chaplain. I’ve seen death up close and personal more than once.

As a nursing student I witnessed a first breath… as a nurse I’ve witnessed many last breaths.

As my grandpa was on his death bed I was speaking to him from 600 miles away. He was ready to go and I knew that and I’m thankful for those final words he said to me as I was pouring over my studies “I believe in what you are doing, you are meant to be a nurse.”  I found out he was gone when I was sitting in class. I was in my nursing school’s bathroom sobbing. It was those words though that helped get me through the med-surg class I was convinced I was going to fail. They helped me get through the clinicals where I was in tears.  Those words helped me to get up in the days of night shift where my body felt like a wreck. Those words have stayed with me day in and day out for the 2+ years of my career. My grandpa died of cancer. I’ve not only been on the clinical side, but I’ve been on the personal side… multiple times.

There are days it is easy to forget when I’m stressed out what it is like to be the family member wondering what is going on, but I try my hardest to remember that I’ve been there. I’ve been just as worried about many of my family members.

Those words from my grandpa said so many years ago mean so much to me. And it is those words that remind me that I need to grieve. I went years without crying. I went years without letting emotion out. And that was damaging. No matter whether it is grieving the loss of a patient, the loss of a friendship in my life, the loss of a loved one, the loss of precious Maddie, the loss of a familiar life due to a move, or any sort of change that represents loss we must grieve.  Because of those words from my grandpa I am reminded I must grieve, because grieving is what helps keep me healthy and able to be the best nurse for my patients and their families.

So while this blog is a bit on the heavy side, as someone who spent years holding the tears in, I want to encourage you to let them flow. I want to encourage you to talk it out if that is what you need to do to process. Work it out if you exercise to process. Whatever it is my dear friend, you deserve to grieve.

Secondly, I want to encourage you to not fear something because it may involve the grief process. Life isn’t easy. Letting go of places, people, jobs, animals, etc. isn’t easy even if it is needed. But I can tell you from experience it is worth it.

And it is with my grandpa’s words in my head and heart saying he believed in what I was doing that remind me that my first duty is to allow myself the room to grieve so that I can walk with others through their grief.

Erica

Why I’m thankful to be the nurse of cancer patients

Last night I had a dream. In the dream all the sudden a pediatric psych unit appeared at my current job and they took me from being a chemo nurse to being a pediatric psych nurse. All I kept saying was “but I’m a chemo nurse!”

I love my job. Even on the toughest days I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point in my career.

Just a few weeks ago in the span of 48 hours in my work e-mail we had 6 obituaries of patients. Since then there have been a few more to follow. Many of these were moms with young children. My heart broke for these families, especially as the holidays approach they will face a new emptiness.  That isn’t easy.

But despite what many may think, my job is not always sad news. Recently I have also had the privilege to dance and give big hugs to many patients as their news has been “the scan shows no evidence of residual disease”. I think at times I may be almost as nervous as the patients and their families as we await the results of the scans.

Both sides  of my job I will remember for years to come. These patients touch my life in more ways than they could ever know.

I’m thankful to be gifted with the opportunity to work with such an incredible population of people.

Here is a list of what they teach me everyday:

1. They teach me what it looks like to be brave. Whether this is in plowing forward even when there seems to be no hope or breaking down in tears and letting the fact that they are having a bad day shine through.

2.  They teach me what it is like to balance getting weekly chemo, working part time, and being the primary caregiver for their kids.

3. Their family members teach me what it truly looks like to serve one another.

4. I get to see some of the strongest marriages that exist. It is incredible what a powerful team can fight together.

5. They teach me how to be real. How to talk about insecurities and be ok with them.

6. They teach me how to be honest.

7. They teach me what it means to live each day to its fullest.

8. They teach me what it means to fight with all the strength one has,

9. They teach me grace in letting go.

10. They teach me what really matters in the day to day life.

11. They remind me that the only moment we have is right now.

12. They teach me what grace in suffering looks like.

13. They teach me that scars are beautiful

14. They teach me that life is a gift.

15. They teach me how to laugh and smile amidst the trial.

I could go on and on. But I won’t. At the end of the day the air I breathe seems a bit sweeter. The health of my family and friends seems a much bigger blessing. I hang on a bit longer to that hug of a loved one. I forgive quicker. I embrace the struggles in life as learning points. I worry less about the small things. I am more careful about how I spend my time. I love more deeply.

To each of the cancer patients and their families out there, know that I feel incredibly blessed to walk through this tough journey with you.

This Thanksgiving, let’s all take a little more time to focus on the things that do matter and focus less on the things that don’t matter. Let us each reach out to those people who are struggling through the Holidays and help them to feel loved if even only for a moment. Let us forgive our families and hug them tighter. Let us take more pictures and laugh harder.  And let us all continue to walk through this journey called life one more brave step at a time.

Erica

Needles, Meds, and Blood- Oh My!

I never thought I would be a nurse. Never. Ever. When I was growing up I wanted to be a librarian or a cashier; mainly because they got to check things out and made wonderful beeping noises all day while they did it-ha! Honestly, that only lasted until about age 8, then I really didn’t think about it. I guess I figured that the right profession would just come to me one day. However, I did have a toy medical kit when I was young and I remember having lots of fun with the stethoscope; it was a little muffled if you spoke right into it so I would pretend I was ordering at McDonalds. I had a big imagination.


During my junior year of high school, I realized that I actually needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life as college degree choices were looming before me. I knew for SURE that I did not want to be in the medical world because I HATED needles. If I didn’t like needles, I couldn’t imagine poking anyone else. That being the case, I began to look for other options. 

My interests were mainly in the arts (sewing,crafting,cooking,etc) but deep down all I could see myself doing was being a wife and mother someday. But I decided that just in case I didn’t find the “right guy”, I should probably have a back up plan. I looked into home economics at multiple colleges but was not very impressed. I loved working with kids so I started looking in that direction. Seeing as I didn’t want to be anywhere on the medical side of things, I decided that becoming a “Child Life Specialist” was the route for me. 

Basically a child life specialist is someone who counsels kids about different procedures and treatments while they are in the hospital. I would pretty much be a medical counselor; finding ways to help children understand what was happening/being done to their bodies (here is a link to more information about Child Life Specialists). Content with my choice, I proceeded to find the best college to suit my decision. 

Last day of my Pediatrics rotation in nursing school
In the spring of my senior year, I saw a documentary about Romanian orphans. The show documented how the majority of Romanian orphanages were overrun with orphans. The problem was so bad that the kids were not getting enough physical touch every day and therefore suffered developmental problems as they grew. Some babies were lucky to have a small amount of touch when their  bottle was propped in their crib, or when they had their diaper changed once daily. Needless to say, the show touch my heart and I hatched a plan. 

Many countries are closed to the Bible and visitors in general, however they welcome medical aid. My plan was to become a nurse so that I might get into such closed countries and help those suffering while also spreading God’s Word. I had decided that although I didn’t like the “blood and guts” side of nursing, I could stomach it if that meant that I could sneak my way around closed doors in the world. Due to my change of heart, I then also decided to switch universities a month before school started (sorry Mom!) but everything worked out.

Once I conquered nursing school, I worked for a year on a Medical-Surgical unit at a local hospital. I learned a lot, but mostly, I learned how I wanted to find a different area of nursing to pursue. I am now a Medical Supervisor (nurse) at a plasma clinic and love the daytime shifts and decreased stress level. My heart for overseas aid is still burning for an opportunity to go help the suffering in another country and deep down I still would rather be a stay-at-home momma to my little baby girl, but for now, I am still a nurse-outside the home 🙂 
Last day of clinicals for nursing school

I love the idea of nursing; caring for the vulnerable and suffering, advocating for wishes that would otherwise go unheard, and striving to ensure that all needs are met while you, the nurse, are in charge for a shift. I still have residual effects from “med-surg/night shift burnout”, but I am slowly coming out of that. Nursing is a very challenging profession that requires a lot of stamina- emotionally, mentally, and physically. There are times where I wish that I still had the passion for nursing like when I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, but at this stage in my life all I can think about is how I want to stay home with my baby. My recent endeavors to reach my ultimate mommy goal has started with my other passion- sewing. 

From a young age I loved to sew and make things myself. A couple years ago I delved into card making and had many friends and family tell me I should sell them. I am not the business type and the idea of starting my own business made me very nervous, to say the least. I continued to sew gifts for family and friends and kept hearing comments about selling my creations. I was flattered but still balked at the idea of promoting myself. After having my daughter nearly a year ago and having difficulty with finding a family friendly job as well as finding a babysitter that we were comfortable with, my husband and I began truly searching for ways for me to be able to stay home. Once again, selling my handmade items was suggested. 

This time I had an entire plan to back me and up so I took the “plunge” and opened a store on Etsy (which is a very gentle way of introducing anyone to the business world, just by the way). So far I haven’t sold much other than custom orders but I am excited for what it can become. I have learned that patience truly is a virtue, so I am waiting to see what God has in mind for my store and my profession.

~Ruth
PS: If you are interested in becoming a nurse – GO FOR IT! The schooling might be tough, but it is definitely doable. If you have questions, feel free to ask and I will try my best to answer them. If you are already a nurse but feel like you are drowning in the newness of it all, definitely check out the “Note to New Grads” post by Erica (who, by the way, is an awesome nurse with a passion for what she does- its so encouraging!). There will always be a need for nurses, so if you do decide to pursue that field, be the best you can be; learn all you can so that you can give the best care possible to your patients. 

The road to nursing… it wasn’t easy

I remember the day well. I was a junior in high school and had been contemplating “what do I want to do with my life?” I walked into a hospital with some of my cheerleading companions. Our cheerleading coach had to have all her female organs taken out and we were going to visit her. In that moment I felt like “this is where I belong”. I never thought about being anything else inside the hospital but a nurse/nurse practitioner. My one main thought was “I want to be to other families what those nurses have been to my family as we’ve watched far too many of our loved ones battle cancer.” I proudly proclaimed at my senior sports banquet “I am going to be a nurse practitioner”.

It didn’t take long for that bubble to get popped. Taking microbiology as a first semester freshman wasn’t my brightest idea. I had always worked hard in school, but no matter how much I studied, I didn’t know how to study for me. So I left my freshman year of college defeated. I had a 2.5 GPA and an adviser telling me I was never going to make it in the nursing world. Ever. My heart had one passion at the point, to be a nurse. So I made the decision to transfer to another campus of the school I was going to that required a lower GPA.

While it was incredibly hard to leave the main IU campus, I would never take back that decision for multiple reasons. At IUPUI I had teachers who invested in me and helped me learn how to study. I am not a quick learner. I have to spend hours studying to get average grades. But I love the sciences. I love the human body and I love anything that can help me take care of another human being. It was here I fell in love with exercise science. It was a long battle though, because my only thought still was “I want to be a nurse”. At the end of first semester of Junior year I finally claimed exercise science as my major. I knew it was what God was asking of me, but I still struggled with it. It wasn’t that I didn’t love exercise science, in fact to this day it is something I am extremely passionate about, but it wasn’t my dream.

My senior year I was able to go back to the main IU campus, and because of that I ended up some how by God’s grace graduating on time. I knew nursing still was not where I was supposed to go next, but it still burned on my heart. I went off to the east coast to pursue my masters in nutrition. I love nutrition. I love what it can do in the human body. I loved learning the biochemical breakdown of the body. But as much as I love nutrition, my heart still ached. I wanted to be a nurse.

It is funny though, because the moment I felt like it was okay to pursue nursing. I didn’t want to. Not because I didn’t want to be a nurse, but I was deathly afraid that everyone was right. That I would never make it. I apply to one school in NYC and got rejected. I wanted to stop there. But I felt the nudge to go on. God knew the perfect school and the perfect semester for me. All the details He worked out I won’t bore you with, but I will say this. I was in nursing school with the exact right people, at the exact right time, in the exact right school.

When I started nursing school I had already lost 2 grandparents and 1 uncle to cancer. 3 weeks into nursing school I spoke with my grandpa for the last time as he lost his battle to cancer. I remember his last words as he was dying 600 miles away from where I was “I believe in what you are doing you were created to be a nurse.”  The next morning I sat sobbing on the bathroom floor of my nursing school as I received the news he had taken his final breath. And I knew no matter how hard school was, there was purpose behind what I was doing.

Nursing school sucked. It was hard. I had no life. But I loved what I was learning. And I absolutely love where it has brought me. The interview process I’ll save for another time, but I can tell you this, the wait was worth it. The hard times were worth it. And I know without a doubt I was meant to be a nurse. My nursing career and education aren’t complete, I still have more schooling and many more steps to thank. But I’m thankful for the journey I started taking as a junior in high school. I’m thankful for where I am today because of all the trials I’ve been through to get here. Who knew the girl with the 2.5 GPA my freshman year of college would graduate nursing school with honors? God writes pretty cool stories, and thankfully because of His path I have 2 other careers I am passionate about as well.

Dear Breast Cancer Patient

Dear Breast Cancer Patient,

I have to admit that I feel like the world doesn’t have a complete understanding of how bad this disease still can be. Thankfully, because of research and screenings many women can battle this disease and still have a long healthy life, but that isn’t the case for everyone.

I was a new grad and I had yet to see a breast cancer diagnosis when I opened the chart, but I can remember you, my first breast cancer patient. You were a young women in your 30’s and your disease was everywhere. You were in severe pain from bone mets and my heart broke for you. All you did was stand on your leg to go to the bathroom and it cracked in half because of disease eating away at your bones. It was there in your room as you cried out in pain that I, a new grad nurse, learned a new side of breast cancer, the side that is not often seen, the side that needs to be spoken about.

As I continued my inpatient journey I continued to meet you. Some of you were paralyzed and your life was forever changed due to your mets. Some of you had infection due to tumors. Some of you I met at the end of your battle as you took your last breaths on this earth. You have all impacted me.

Source

At this stage in my career I am walking with you as your chemo nurse. My eyes are opened more than ever to how horrible this disease can be. Breast cancer patient you are that 1 out of 8 women diagnosed with breast cancer. You have the cancer that is most commonly diagnosed in women. You unfortunately have been handed the disease that is the 2nd leading cause of death of women.

I’ve changed your dressings from your tumor that is bursting through your skin. I’ve comforted you as your pain is so severe because of the cancer eating away the skin on your chest. I remember that time when I had to send you to get a stat CT because we were afraid you had a pulmonary embolism, but in the end it was the sad news that the cancer had spread to your lungs and there was a large amount of fluid build up.  I’m seeing more sides of your disease every week, and they are ugly.

Source

Breast cancer patient, you amaze me. As you are crying in pain, hating the fact that you have to take oxy to keep your pain at bay, you still smile at me and say to me “my nursey“. You sit with me and look at pictures of my niece and nephew and tell me about all the things your beautiful young kids are doing. You are my hero. I learn a whole new side of what love looks like from you and your husband. The look he has in his eyes is one of the deepest of love I have ever seen. The way you and he work as a team and know each other so well is incredible.

Breast cancer patient, don’t lose your spunk. Keep wearing your crazy hats, keep rocking that G.I. Jane look, and don’t you ever lose your ability to look at the bright side.  But know this, it is perfectly ok to have bad days. It is perfectly ok to be in a funk.  It is more than fine if you need to cry your eyes out during each chemo treatment. Know this, that through every good news I will rejoice with you, through every bad news I will cry with you, and throughout the days of my life, I will fight this battle alongside you and fight for a cure for this disease. Thank you for blessing my life breast cancer patient. Thank YOU for fighting with grace and passion. Thank you for being you.

Be brave. Be bold. Be beautiful.

With a grateful heart,

One of your nurses

Informational Resources:

1. Basic Facts of Breast Cancer

2. Cancer.org Facts and Figures

3.  Breast Cancer Symptoms

4. Breast Cancer Genetics

Dear Ovarian Cancer Patient

Dear Ovarian Cancer Patient,

It was with you that I got to start my nursing career.  It was your cancer that I first got to know at an in depth  view. I was there with you has you came back from your TAH/BSO and whatever else they felt needed to be done. As you rolled up to the floor from the PACU in so much pain I was immediately running to get pain meds.  I was there with you as you could barely keep your eyes open from the pain medication but you were also anxiously waiting to see what the doctors found in your abdomen.  I was there with you holding your hand as the doctors told you it was cancer.  I was there holding your hand as we rejoiced over the news it hadn’t spread.  I was also there holding your hand as you were told it had spread farther than they had thought.  I was the one annoyingly asking you to sit on the side of your bed when the thought of even lifting your hand was terrifying. Because a nursing manager took a chance on me as a new grad, I was there in your world… walking with you… and learning about how hard a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is.

 Source

At a very young age cancer was part of my vocabulary.  Before I was even born my paternal grandma battled ovarian cancer and lost. It is such a rare diagnosis, and is so hard to detect.

I’ve been a few places since that first job.  But I still walk with you.  Now my job is to walk with you day in and day out as you deal with chemo.  As you get your scans back.  I’m still there holding your hand through good news and bad news. And I’m so thankful for the opportunity to walk with you through your battle.  Thank you, ovarian cancer patient, for letting me walk with you. To learn so much about love, drive, and fight through your own battle. To learn what it means to have grace. To learn what it means to be hopeful in the hardest of situations.

It is for you I am writing this blog.  To get the word out there about ovarian cancer.  Together, let’s fight this thing!

With greatest gratitude,

One of your nurses

Quick Facts and Figures:

* 1 in 72 Women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her life (ovariancancer.org)
* It is the 5th leading cause of cancer deaths in women (ovariancancer.og)
* Most women are diagnosed in late stage which has a lower survival rate

More Information about Ovarian Cancer:

Test and Diagnosis outline

CA 125’s Potential for Earlier Detection

Potential signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer

Facts and Figures of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer Statistics

A Note to the New Grad Nurse Part 2-Things we wish we knew as new grads

I can still remember the day I got my acceptance letter almost 4 years ago like it was yesterday.  It was a crisp fall day when that letter arrived in my mailbox. While in many ways it feels like just yesterday, in reality it was almost 4 years ago.  Since then I’ve finished my masters, gone through an accelerated nursing program, and now have 2 years of nursing under my belt.  Every day I am still learning a ton, but there a few things my now “experienced” nursing friends and I wish we had known when we first put on those scrubs and proudly put on that badge saying boldly and loudly “RN.

27 Things We Wished We Knew as New Grad Nurses

1. If you feel like you are going to puke before every shift or drive to work in tears… don’t worry you aren’t alone. Same thing if this is what happens after your shifts. You are most definitely NOT alone.

2. Don’t accept just any job.  While it is hard as a new grad to find experience, you will be spending  A LOT of time there it is ok to wait for the right fit.

3. On that same note though, your dream job may take time, but a good fit is a GREAT place to learn.

4.  Confidence in yourself. It takes TIME. And that is ok.

5.  Sometimes SBAR isn’t all you need to tell the MD, PA, or NP.

6.  Those silly code runs that are fake and make you feel ridiculous. They actually are REALLY helpful!

7.  The field of nursing is wide and broad. Don’t limit yourself to just bedside nursing if it isn’t your passion, that is ok.

8.  You DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING. It is ok to say “I don’t know” and learn for next time.

9.  Asking questions doesn’t make you a bad nurse or make you stupid, it makes you SMART. That is the absolute best way to learn.

10.  Every place has its own “Policies and Procedures”.  Realize that how you learned something in nursing school may change during your first job… and your second… and your third… and so on.

11. You aren’t going to like every patient you take care of and that is OK. You just have to give every patient the best quality care you can.

12.  Driving home from work… crawling into bed after a long night shift you’re going to realize “OH MY GOODNESS I DIDN’T CHART THAT 300 mL OF URINE!”. You aren’t perfect. If it is something that needs attention you can call in to the nurse who followed you, but if it is something that can be let go… let it go. Learn from your mistakes of not charting in the moment and figure out a system of remembering that works for you.

13.  You have to come up with your own system of writing things down, charting, doing assessments, and managing your shift. It is perfectly ok if it isn’t like anyone else’s as long as it works for you and you can get everything done.

14. The first few shifts on your own you’re going to feel like a truck hit you and you’re never going to make it. But you will.

15.  Don’t be afraid to go in the bathroom, sit on the toilet, and take some deep breaths.  In the end every nurse has taken extra time in the bathroom just to catch their breath for a minute.

16.  When possible…. waste the medications that needed wasted right then and there.  That is just something you don’t want to even chance forgetting.

17.  You are your patients’s ADVOCATE. Don’t be afraid to stand up for them.  And if you’re wrong… oh well… at least you can leave knowing you fought for your patient.

18.  Keep your social life.

19.  Try as best as possible to lead a healthy lifestyle outside of work.  13 hour shifts are brutal.

20.  If you’re in MedSurg… we feel your pain. But know this. YOU ARE GOING TO LEARN A TON!

21.  There is a person beneath that rude and frustrating patient.  Do the best you can to find that person and care for their soul too.

22.  Find hobbies outside of work that help you unwind.

23.  This is a 24 HOUR institution if you are in a hospital.  Leave the patients with the other nurses. They are trustworthy and capable :-).

24.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.  You went to school for this. You’ve done your training. You’ve come this far. You don’t need to be walked all over.

25.  As you learn your area of specialty things will really start to fall into place. You’ll understand things better and you’ll be able to tell earlier and earlier when something is wrong in a patient.  Never underestimate the little things. They can in the end be warning signs for something much much bigger.

26.  You are only one person. Do not be afraid to ask for help! And one of the best things you can learn how to do is delegate appropriately… but don’t forget to double check that things that have been delegated are done.

27.  When you’re tired, warn out, smelly, dehydrated, not sure what is on your shoes, and squinting at the sun light as if you were a vampire know this. YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT! You are an incredibly intelligent person who has fought hard to get this far in your dream.  Keep running after it with your whole heart!  And don’t be afraid to try a few different areas until you find your passion (but make sure you give each area an ample amount of time before moving on).

We hope this helps,

Some slightly more experienced nurses

P.S. It is true the more you know… the more you realize you don’t know anything :-).

Erica

Just because you are a nurse…

Today’s post is dedicated to the nursing crew today!  Although this post is applicable for anyone.  I have had a few nursing friends that were specifically asking me about hair styles that they could try to shake it up when they are working.  They were tired of the same old drab ponytail.

Usually when you are working, you typically want your hair to stay out of your face.  It needs to be low maintenance and easy to do or else you aren’t going to want to do it.  It needs to be pulled back and last for hours at a time.  Typical shifts for my nursing friends could be anywhere from 8 to 12 hour stints with limited breaks.  Clearly, the last thing they need to worry about or should be worrying about is their hair.

1. Ponytail with hair wrap
This is so very simple.  Pull your hair into a ponytail.  It is your preference of whether you want this to be a low ponytail or if you want it up a little higher.  I would recommend using a thicker elastic band even if your hair is fine and thin it will make a huge difference in stability.

Then take a section of hair (as seen below) and you will wrap it around the elastic band as a covering around it.  When you get to about an inch or so of hair left reach under and tuck the end of the hair through securing it.  You will still have a little bit of hair left, you can tuck it in the lower part of the ponytail where it magically disappears.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzqpfjEeWf4

2. Braids
French braids are great for keeping your hair back and out of your face.  There are many variations to which all ages can wear.  You can secure your hair in a ponytail first, then braid the remainder of the hair.  Secure with a secondary elastic band.

Another variation which is really fun is creating a braid across the front of your hairline as seen below.  If you need your hair more so away from your face, pulling it into a low ponytail is always a good option.

http://123hipitup.blogspot.com/2009/02/braid-wars.html

Or you could always do two french braids:

http://123hipitup.blogspot.com/2009/02/braid-wars.html

3. Buns

Here is a bun with the front braid idea:
http://www.fashiondivadesign.com/17-hair-bun-models-ideas/
Now, you can also wear a stylish traditional bun.  If you are worried about having enough hair to do this style that is no problem.  There is also a lot of variety seen with wearing buns.  You can wear a high bun, low bun, messy bun…the possibilities are truly endless.  
If you have long hair, you can buy this beautiful little tool called a hair donut.  Here is how it works!  This is so easy to use and makes your bun look flawless every time.

http://www.6footlonghair.com/2011/02/satin-donut-bun.html

4. Shorter Hair
If your hair is not long enough to try any of the above, sometimes it is just easier to invest in some cute headbands.  I have found some that don’t squeeze my head and are very chic.  They hold my bangs back without fail and allow me a little bit of flair. 

All in all, there are ways to look and feel good at work without spending a ton of time on it.  A little effort goes a long way!  These are just a few suggestions but you know it could be infinity and beyond…
Beauty knows no limits….
Catie Manning

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