Recently we have had some really bad “outcomes” on the unit as well as difficult patients after some bad situations. Consequently, I’ve been reflecting on how much I have changed in the last year and a half in terms of dealing with everything emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I used to ask “why” when I first started nursing: Why does God allow evil? Why do people treat themselves and their unborn children in xyz ways? Why are some people so difficult and hard to deal with?
For instance, I remember coming face to face with my first real meth-mom. I had had many patients who abused drugs, had mental problems, had health problems–the list goes on, but this patient was my first real encounter with someone so completely enslaved to meth that she was like a walking corpse.
What was so shocking to me is the total disregard this woman had for her unborn child–how her passion for meth led her to completely disregard her pregnancy. My co-workers were consummed with complaining about caring for her, judging her for her choices, condemning her for her actions–all typical responses and even understandable–we were all shocked by this woman!
Then I was assigned to this patient who went on to beg me for drugs and shortly after, left AMA so that I didn’t see her again. I felt absolutely helpless, was angry at her and myself for not being able to fix the situation–and then all those “WHY” questions started popping up in my head. I took the patient home with me after my shift and proceeded to ask why on every day I had off between shifts. I felt like I had participated in just one more horrible night in her awful story–and later when I found out her baby hadn’t survived, I blamed myself for not being able to nurse her perfectly.
Basically I made myself miserable, I ended up questioning my profession and yes, even my faith…and realized that this patient had changed me, but not for the better. I had that chance to really examine my beliefs. Yes, my coworkers and I get pretty angry at situations. It is so hard to care for a patient like that–I cannot even explain how dreadful it is–and as a nurse, many times our defense mechanisms include getting angry and trying to find answers. But nurses can allow the “whys” to ruin nursing.
It was at that point that I realized I needed to stop asking why, stop judging my patients, and stop taking responsibility for their life choices. I was just one piece of the puzzle, and I began to believe I had been put in her life as a positive–not a negative. I had been successful as her nurse in that on my watch she had been well cared for, baby was alive and undrugged for a few hours, and I was able to take her home with me to pray for her–not to condemn her.
I have found that initially asking why can lead to some self discovery–and for me I have discovered how not to ask the question anymore. I fight against opening myself up to judgment of my patients and consequently questioning my own beliefs and choice of vocation. I no longer take these cases home with me–I talk them out, pray about them, then let them go. Now, I choose instead to ask “how”–how can I care for my patient and be the best nurse to her that I can be at that time. The rest is NOT up to me!