“This is the face of defeat”: a nurse’s experience of losing a patient
A nurse shares her experience of losing a patient and code, and how it affected her.
This is the face of defeat.
The face after 26 minutes of CPR.
The face after losing a patient in code.
The face after hearing children sob for their dying mother.
The face after telling a mother that she will never hold her daughter again.
This. Is. Pain.
We go home and we cry in the shower. We pray on it before bed. We toss and turn causing a sleepless night because we cannot get images and sounds out of our minds. We wake up, walk back in, and we do it again with a smile.
This is the face of overworked and underpaid.
This is the face of under appreciated and over looked.
We are tired and we are sore. We are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.
We all wear this face. You may not see it because we hide it well. We hold the hand of a patient dying alone and quickly answer a call light for ice chips with a smile. We remove the ventilator from a terminal patient and we leave the room to crack jokes with a patient discharging home. We jump off the chest after a round of CPR to help the patient next door off a bed pan and run back to the code and carry on. You don’t always see the sadness, but it’s there. The reactions we have could end a life and the split second decisions could save another.
This is why nurses get so pissed off when we are belittled and our job is teased. This is why we come together and unite in a moment of public shame or blasphemy.
Our work friends become our family because they are the only ones who understand. They share the same blood on their hands and scrubs. They hear the screams and they see the pain. They know.
We leave work and drive home in silence but we still hear all the noise. We hug our children and smile when we walk in the door. When we get asked how our day was, we reply with, “good!”
And then we become good at wearing this face. This face is emotion that we hide because we in fact are not good. We hold our children tighter, we call that family member battling drug addiction, we remember to wear our seatbelts when we get in the car, and we try to get or loved ones to stop smoking.
We see it all. We feel it all. We do it all.
We spend hours organizing dozens of IV drips. Ensuring compatibility and increasing and decreasing the rates to make sure they keep you alive. IV drips making your heart beat. IV drips making you sedated. IV drips making you pain free. We untangle the tubing each time we turn you. We turn you so your skin is protected. So when, by the grace of god and our medical intelligence, you wake up and leave, you aren’t leaving with bed sores and skin breakdown. We trip over machines that fill the room. Machines that keep you breathing, keep you cold, keep you warm, monitor core temperature, filter your blood so your kidneys stay healthy. Dozen of machines that make noise. They never stop making noise. Each noise is never ignored. No drip ever runs dry. We stay vigilant of these machines. Those machines are why you are alive. We run all of those machines. We keep you alive.
We sacrifice meals. We eat as we hover over you. Taking bites by our computers and running in your room to make sure you are still stable. To make sure you have the medications you need. We don’t put ourselves first. Never. YOU are our priority.
We don’t pass judgement. We treat you all the same. We stand our guard as we provide top notch care to violent patients. We have to start IVs and complete assessments as we are cussed at, spit on, threatened, and belittled. We get hit and pinched. We don’t quit. Through verbal and physical abuse, we advocate for YOU. We break our backs to save YOU.
The reason you are my patient does not skew the care you are given. We have held the hand of murderers, rapists, thieves, drug users, drug dealers, drunk drivers, and racists. The care is unchanged. It’s all compassionate and it’s all real. We are genuine.
We preserve your dignity. We clean you and bathe you. We wash your hair and clean your mouth. We don’t let you sit dirty and we don’t show you off like an exhibit. You are a reflection of us. We strive for perfection.
We are not just pill pushers.
We are nurses.
This is the face of bravery and strength. This is the face of unconditional love and perseverance. This is the face of someone determined to save your life.
If you know a nurse, thank them. We aren’t as okay as we always seem. Our faces may be misleading and sometimes we need to know that what we do and the pain we endure while doing it, is worth it.
This post was originally published on the Nurses Forum Facebook page.