23 2 / 2014

A beautiful and powerful poem on death, life, & love

By Derrick Brown

02 2 / 2014

One very important life skill I learned in nursing school is that to be an effective nurse (and mother, wife, daughter, friend, co-worker, etc.) the nurse has to first take care of all her own physical, psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.  

I have always felt like this seemed selfish and thus, irrelevant and illogical in a caring profession but it’s true.

It’s like what they say in safety briefs before fights take off: “We never expect an altitude change but in the event of one, put on your oxygen mask first before assisting children or others.”  You can’t be a good and caring provider if you are not your best possible self.  As a nurse, it is vital to be at your holistically healthiest so you can be the best patient advocate, care provider, and nurse possible.  

And that’s how, as a nursing student, I really got into crafting.  I never liked crafts and art projects because I stink at it.  I am not an artsy person at all.  But I’ve grown to love it since starting nursing school because it is my therapeutic outlet to exercise some creativity and use the right side of my brain once in a while!

So no matter who you are, go out there, find your therapeutic outlet, and take care of yourself because you need to make sure all your needs are taken care of before you can take care of the needs of others.  

25 12 / 2013

19 12 / 2013

A lot of people have asked me what I’ve learned in my first semester of nursing school.  The answer: I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve learned how to have therapeutic patient interactions, disease processes, etc.  But here are the top things I’ve learned directly & indirectly from my first semester of nursing school and would like to pass on: 

1) Follow your bliss.  And I will support you.  Find what makes you inherently happy.  Not what will make your parents happy or your teacher or your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/fiance happy.  And support others in their journey to happiness.  If being a lawyer is your bliss, I will buy you lattes while you pour over law books in the library.  If being a nurse is your bliss, I will be your practice simulation patient.  If being an astronaut is your bliss, I will take you to every space museum I can.  

Rationale: This is an indirect one.  Somewhere in the middle of the semester, I realized that I had evolved from feeling like I wanted to be a nurse to knowing I wanted to be a nurse.  I grew up with parents who were responsible but narrow-minded when it came to cultural conservatism.   Having worked & studied in a major that did not make me happy but made them happy, I now know exactly how much of a difference it makes when you pursue what makes you happy. Thanks to the indescribable support from others, I am now able to follow my bliss and on my way to become a nurse.  Now, my example is with careers.  But really, follow your bliss and support others in all endeavors.  Pursuing and marrying the love of their life.  Backpacking through Europe.  Writing a novel.  Competing in a triathlon.  Dancing for the Rockettes.  

2) Evaluate what is important. This is basic nursing philosophy.  We triage our patients and each patient’s unique needs.  Airway, Breathing & Circulation.  It’s the same in life.  Know what is important to you: in the short AND long run.  Sometimes this means doing the mature and responsible thing (aka not going out partying the night before an exam) while other times, it means to do the complete opposite: go and embrace the seemingly “irresponsible” option and live life to the fullest.  And also keeping in mind that certain experiences that are not traditionally important (i.e. going on a spontaneous road trip across America with friends over Christmas break) can become important if they have an expiration date (you are young and have less responsibilities, someone is terminally ill, etc.)  

Rationale: I used to work with a doctor who told me the first thing he did after graduating medical school & completing his residency with hundreds of thousands of dollars of education debt…was to take a $10,000 personal loan and vacation for three months in Hawaii.  He had worked hard, he knew he was going to earn his reward back, he knew he probably wouldn’t have another chance (or his youth) to do something like that again, and it was the craziest thing he had ever done…but 20 years later, he still thinks it was one of the best decisions of his life.  

3) Accept everyone.  Don’t be judgmental.  I’ll admit, I’m definitely still working on this.  It’s really, really, really, really hard.  In nursing school we learned to practice cultural competency.  This includes language barriers, religious differences, sexual orientation preferences, etc.  It’s not about being “politically correct”.  It’s about loving every human being you encounter and recognizing that they are a unique individual, deserving of utmost respect and care.  Understand that culture is more than just ethnicity or race, hometown, spirituality, or professional affiliation.  Culture is the individual’s cumulative and unreplicable experiences that define who that person is, their self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth.  Understand that EVERYONE’s culture can and will be slightly different from others’ and to love, accept and at least try to acknowledge it.  

Rationale: Just as there is no right or wrong opinion, there is no right or wrong way to live a life.  What one person deems worthless may be exactly what gives another person meaning in their lives.  What is important to one person may be irrelevant to another.  So instead of arguing or judging someone for values that you don’t agree with, see this as an opportunity to learn, keep an open mind, heart, and soul, and embrace in the beauty of the individuality of humanity.  

I know nothing about life, I don’t have kids and I’m too young to really give advice.  But if I were to try to pass on any pearls of wisdom I’ve gained in my young 23 years to someone much younger who I care about and love deeply…this is my silent public letter to you.  I know what it’s like to feel alone, to feel unloved, unimportant and unsupported from the people you expect the most from.  If you ever feel that way, just remember lesson #1: Find your bliss.  Follow it.  Whatever it is.  And I will always, always, support you.  

That’s a promise.  

04 12 / 2013

I realize that this post has absolutely nothing to do with nursing school but I’m putting it up anyways.

I was sitting on the subway earlier today and I heard two high school kids discuss what topics they were choosing to write for an English class essay they had to write with the prompt “what dictates respect?” That’s a great prompt and I’ve been thinking about it all day.  A lot of excellent traits command respect but I think one of my pet peeves is actually what kills my respect for someone faster than anything else: LAZINESS.  I can’t stand people who are lazy.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being lazy on the weekends, a day off, birthday, holidays, vacations, etc.  In fact, that’s the PERFECT time for good R&R.  What drives me crazy is when people are lazy with their DAILY LIVES.  I’m talking about the person who’s “on break” for the third time in an hour, grabbing his 27th coffee of the day.  I’m also talking about the student who doesn’t study (if you are a full time student, STUDYING is your FULL TIME JOB).  But nothing rubs me the wrong way than a person who is lazy about just doing things essential to living life.  

The person who grabs a taxi every day to class because he doesn’t want to “deal with walking”.  The person who has her laundry sent out to a service because she doesn’t want to “deal with laundry”.  The person who gets groceries delivered because she doesn’t want to “deal with groceries”.  I get it if these people are super high-powered, $750/hour earning-potential executives who work more hours in a week than most people do in a pay period and barely have enough time to maintain personal hygiene and minimal sleep as it is.  I get it.  But these specific examples come from people I ACTUALLY KNOW.  Full-time students like myself, are young (late teens to mid-twenties), healthy, and live in NYC.  What has happened to our society that this Generation Y is so LAZY to “deal with things”, things that are very essential to daily life, that they’d rather throw money at every situation? When were we taught to believe that WALKING, doing your own laundry, and buying your own groceries is something we just shouldn’t need to “deal with” in our lives? 

It sickens me every time I hear these examples and no matter how much I respected these people before, I can never look at them with the same respect I have before.  

No matter what a person’s personal criteria for respect is, RESPECT IS EARNED.  EARN IT.  How can you earn someone’s respect when you are too lazy to work for it? And even worse, how can you earn someone’s respect when you are too lazy to even take care of basic necessities for yourself?! 

WAKE UP GENERATION Y! Just because we were given more comforts and convenience of daily living than any previous generation does not mean we should embrace it to a ridiculous extent and forget how to take care of ourselves.  If our forefathers were as lazy as we are in this generation, I can guarantee it wouldn’t even be possible to be this lazy today.  See the possibility of having laundry dry-cleaned, chauffeured in a cab everywhere you go, and fresh groceries delivered to your doorstep as an occasional PRIVILEGE to be INDULGED in and not a substitution for daily living.

25 11 / 2013

"The practice of nursing affords nurses the privilege of entering the world of strangers who are ill, frightened, or broken in spirit and connecting with them to find healing."

Eloise Balasco Cathcart, MSN, RN

03 11 / 2013

I’m eight weeks into my first semester of nursing school. And I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, a bit swamped, and a bit like I’m slowly sinking into a tarry bog.

A tarry bog that looks like melena and smells like C.diff.

I did great on my first four midterms (hooray), passed my blood pressure validation and my HAP return demonstration. But as I take a deep breath and look at the meager remaining four weeks of the semester, I’m not relieved; on the contrary the anxiety and stress is worsening. There’s a second round of midterms. There’s finals. There’s another return demonstration, this time for A&E 1. I have to pass my dosage calculation exam to be able to administer medications next semester. In the meantime, finish all my online assignments, pre-sim assignments, off-campus assignments, online modules, go to class, do the readings, volunteer twice a week, and work.

This is harder than my first baccalaureate degree. I’ve had one of my classmates tell me this program is harder than their masters program. I felt relieved for a second before the meaning of that statement really sunk in. Great.

I keep thinking about the video Dr. Butler showed us on the first day of Professional Nursing. I laughed inwardly then, thinking that school is always stressful, but there’s no way I’m going to have an actual breakdown like in the youtube video. Now I see that I’m about two bad days from having a breakdown moment in a random hallway on a hard Tuesday afternoon.

Nursing school isn’t tough because there’s no emotional support. It’s not tough because the faculty doesn’t teach. It’s not tough because exams are unfair. It’s not even tough because there is too much to learn. It’s tough despite everyone being everyone else’s best friend, best advocate, and best shoulder to cry on and commiserate with. It’s tough despite having the best faculty I’ve ever had the pleasure to learn from – faculty who are relevant, faculty who really care beyond the office hours, faculty who are passionate about their subject, and faculty who inspire me to absorb as much as I could possibly stuff into my brain. It’s tough despite very fair exams.

It’s just really tough because everything is overwhelming. I’m learning a lot about pathophysiology, clinical manifestations of diseases, how to conduct a head-to-toe assessment, and the hands-on skills of the trade. I’m learning cultural competency. I’m learning how to accept everyone as they are without judgment. I’m learning to listen actively. But most of all, I’m learning the enormity of this profession and what is expected of me now as a student nurse and what will be expected of me later as an actual registered nurse. This isn’t a normal job, where mistakes might cost me my job and my company some money. This is a life and death sort of job, where my humble mistakes might cost an innocent stranger his life. I’m only in my first semester and yet, already, every time I forget to check my simulation patient’s identifiers against his MAR or break sterile technique with a wound dressing change, I risk someone’s life. I risk that person’s well-being, the impact he has on his family, and the influence he has on his community. And right now, that kind of responsibility, that kind of pressure to achieve perfection is really, really overwhelming on top of everything else.

Needless to say, I’m counting on a good, healthy recuperation over winter break in just 5 long weeks. Get a chance to breathe normally again and just focus on de-stressing before jumping back into the fray again, renewed and rejuvenated.  

16 10 / 2013

It struck me today: I want to be a nurse.  

I was just tossing my pasta salad. 

This is silly because I’m already in nursing school.  I have been for the past 5 weeks.  I’ve been memorizing my pathophysiology, practicing my assessment skills, encouraging health promotion skills to my friends & family, reading up on different kinds of nursing careers, and consistently drilling myself about pressure ulcers, fall risks, and medication administration reconciliations.  I’ve already taken out that huge private student loan and paid my tuition, spent an extra semester completing prerequisites, and moved 2,500 miles from California to New York. 

Now, I finally figured out that I want to be a nurse? That’s a scary thought! What if it was the opposite? What if instead of realizing I wanted to be a nurse, it struck me that I didn’t want to be one? I thought I wanted to be a nurse - what changed that made me know I wanted to be a nurse?

It struck me again.  This time, it was 3 am and I couldn’t sleep because I was worrying about my blood pressure validation at 8 a.m.  

know I want to be a nurse because I want to be a patient advocate.  It was like Professor Butler said in class: we are THE patient’s advocate.  Call it a superhero complex, but I want to defend patients who are too weak to defend themselves.  I want to defend patients who cannot speak for themselves, take care of themselves, or are simply too overwhelmed by society’s pressures to stand by their convictions.  

It’s not that I like vulnerable people.  I don’t.  It’s that I want to extend that helping hand or voice when someone is at their most vulnerable and see them either stand tall and healthy again (metaphorically speaking in some cases, I suppose) or be able to pass away from this world with the dignity, peace, and serenity they deserve.  

08 10 / 2013

Wish me luck! My first nursing school exam is Pathophysiology in 2 days.  Eek! 

26 9 / 2013

Today in my Professional Nursing class, my professor brought up historical figures who have shaped the profession into what it is today.  One of the ladies she brought up is Margaret Sanger (better remembered as founder of the birth control movement and Planned Parenthood).  And I love this empowering quote so much I’m going to share it on here: 

"My fight is for the personal liberty of the women who work.  A woman’s body belongs to herself alone.  It is her body.  It does not belong to the Church.  It does not belong to the United States of America or to any other Government of the face of the earth.  The first step toward getting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for any woman is her decision whether or not she shall become a mother.  Enforced motherhood is the most complete denial of a woman’s right to life and liberty." 

These words are from a hundred years ago (1914).  Guess what politicians are STILL arguing about at Capitol Hill and in state houses across the nation? Women’s rights to their bodies.  The woman’s body DOES NOT BELONG TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  Why are we still debating this point a century later?

And on that note, this is a nurse who spoke those fighting words a HUNDRED YEARS AGO! This is when submission to authority was considered a good quality in a nurse.  Penicillin wasn’t even discovered yet, nurses wore traditional Victorian garb to see their patients, and the world had not yet discovered the importance of personal hygiene, like wearing gloves or washing their hands.  So you’d think with all of our progress in the last century, we could be a bit more progressive about treating women with recognition of their intellect and respect for their choices.

So as a future nurse, here is what I want to see when I’m old and gray one day - I want to see nurses advocating for the indisputable reproductive rights of their patients.  Not just at the bedside, but in courthouses and in legislative bodies.  I want my grandchildren to one day be shocked and appalled at the way the world “used to be” and how dare the government try to control as personal decision as childbearing in an woman’s life.  I want my great-grandchildren to have no idea what a “back-alley abortion” even means.  I want to see the day woman’s rights to reproduction are as inalienable as basic human rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.