Death Calling

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Nurse Anxiety 
My Ideal Shift

I am getting used to the habit of setting an intention of what I want my nursing shifts to be like before going to work and so far, it has been working out wonderfully.  My last attempt in setting my intention in the article Nurse Anxiety have resulted in My Ideal Shift, where almost everything I had asked for was given to me.

My Intention on Monday was: to have a shift that is physically easy and emotionally rewarding.

Manifesting my Intention

I was assigned 4 patients with 3 of them who are clear in the head AND being able to walk and talk.  In fact, two of my patients were sent home by the end of my shift and I didn’t even have to worry about admitting new patients who couldn’t walk and talk. I had one patient who could not walk, but I had two LPNs who were willing to help me at any time.  I felt SO lucky!  Thank You Universe!  It looked like I was going to have a very easy shift yesterday but I was unsure how I could have a emotionally rewarding.

At around 12 pm, one of my colleagues went on her lunch break and asked me to cover for her patients.  She was expecting an admission from the Emergency Room but she said she will take care of the patient when she comes back from lunch.

The new patient arrived while I was inserting a foley catheter on a very big female patient (for those of you who REALLY want to know about this procedure, click here), so I sent one of the LPNs working with me to look into settling the new patient.

As I was finishing up my foley catheter insertion, my colleague ran into the room and said, “May, you better come quick! He doesn’t look good!”  I hurried into the new patient’s room and found the 80 year old male patient to be unresponsive to verbal command, extremely pale and grey looking, and worse of all, covered in feces.  Immediately, I asked the LPNs to check his vital signs and found his blood pressure to be only 65/32 (normally this should be around 120/80), his oxygen saturation was only 84% (normally this should be 97~100%) while on as much oxygen as we could give him.  This was the vital statistics of a man who was seriously crashing.  I began calling for help, I called the doctors, and found out that this patient has been made “comfort care”.  This means that he was expected to pass away within the next 6 hours and he was basically sent here to die.

I approached the patient’s son sitting outside the room and explained to him that his dad had a little accident and we are working hard to make him more comfortable.  The truth is, he probably knew his dad had an “accident”, the feces on the bed was somewhat dried and it smelled really bad, I think the nurses in the emergency room was far too busy to change him.  The patient’s son was a man who looked like he was in his mid-fifties.  His eyes were slightly red and watery; and I could tell that he is trying hard to hold back his emotions.  My wonderful colleagues worked so hard to clean up the patient and make him comfortable.  We left the room and ask the patient’s son to come in to be with his father.  One of the LPNs said to the patient’s son before she left the room, “you might want to touch your dad’s hand and let him know that you are here…”

Twenty minutes later, my wonderful colleague came rushing at me looking white in her face.  She said, “May! I don’t think he’s breathing! I went to check on him and he looked like his is dead! I don’t know what to do!”

Did she think “I know what to do?!!” She is 48, I am 28, she’s got 20 years ahead of me and she wants ME to do something? At this time, the nurse I was covering for came back from her break so I said to her, “Oh yeah, your admission came in and I think he is now dead, you have to go see your pronounce the death and talk to his son”.
“NO~~~!!” She grabbed on to me for dear life and said, “I don’t want to go! I am not ready for this! YOU have to go!”

“Ok, ok, fine! I’ll go.” I said as I gathered myself and walked towards the patient’s room.  I recalled the doctor’s written orders stating “RN may pronounce patient’s death” and thinking about the fact that I had NEVER pronounce anyone dead before.  I got to the patient’s beside and he clearly was not alive anymore.  I asked my LPN colleague to get me a stethoscope and asked the patient’s son, “How’s your dad?”  The patient’s son said, “He hasn’t moved.”

Damn!” I thought to myself, “he has no idea his dad had passed away”.  The LPN came in to give me the stethoscope and I proceeded to listening to the patient’s heart and breath sounds.  Nothing.There was no longer any breath sounds or heart beat audible via the stethoscope.  I looked up at the patient’s son and very calmly said, “Your father has passed away.”  I saw the son let out a burst of emotion and I had the feeling the flood gate was going to open at any second.  With same calm voice, I said to him, “I will let you guys hang out for awhile…”

I walked straight to the supply room and got a box of tissue and very tactfully discretely placed it beside him, as I was just about to leave, the patient’s son said to me, “What am I supposed to do now?”  I said, “Be with your dad. He is still around, he hasn’t gone very far, just because he has left his physical body doesn’t mean that he is not here.  Our policy here is that we will not move him until you are done visiting together, so please, take your time.”

My colleague must have been standing beyond the curtain that was drawn around the patient because I could see that she too, was emotionally affected by the circumstances of this situation.  Her eyes was watery and she was having a difficult time dealing with how quickly the patient passed away.  I suppose even staff members need some time to emotionally prepare for an impending death of a patient.  She was so amazed at the way I handled the situation so calmly and peacefully that she asked me if I had ever considered working in palliative care (nursing for people who are actively dying).

I was quite impressed with the way I handled the situation too.  I felt calm and composed as well as being supportive and effective at communicating with people at the most difficult and critical moments.  Most importantly, I was able to come to terms with my own emotions.  The last time I found a patient dead was when I was a nursing student.  I was just starting my work day when I found the patient dead.  Of course that was an even more unexpected death than the one I have experienced this time, but I recall going home and crying for hours after I was done with my shift.

I feel like I now have a better spiritual understanding of death and how it works.  Death is a continuation of life, and life is a continuation of death.  When we die our soul is released from this dense physical reality into an energy form of higher vibration.  Since we are energy and energy cannot be created or destroyed, we cannot cease to exist, we can however, change from one form of energy to another.  Who we are consist of more than what we can see or feel.

This was no doubt an emotionally rewarding shift for me and I thank the universe for granting my request by allowing me to participate beautifully in the final process of a person’s life.  I also learned a few things about myself:

  1. I am an excellent communicator
  2. I can be calm, composed, and appropriately supportive when necessary
  3. I realized that I see life as a beautiful process and death as an integral part of life
  4. I was inspired by the insight life is a continuation of death and death is a continuation of life.

Learning How to Heal

At the beginning of January 2008, I was presented with an interesting idea:  I am a Healer.  This idea came to me through several people, my friend Ivy who is highly spiritually aware told me that I had to be a healer, I had a dream that I should be a healer, and I had a Clairvoyant that told me I have healing powers.  But what does it mean to be a healer anyways?  Do I have the ability to cure cancer? Stop the flu? Can I stop a person from dying?

The truth is, I cannot cure cancer, nor can I stop a person from dying.  I have worked in the hospital and have personally participated in some miracles but I can’t really take any credit for them.  Why?  Because all healing is self-healing.

There are, however, many things I am good at.  I am good at sensing and identifying the limiting beliefs people have that block their own healing.  I am good at finding joy in dire moments, and I am great at inspiring those who want to be inspired.  One thing I have learned about working as a Registered Nurse in the last 6 years is that every patient of mine was there by choice, either consciously or subconsciously.  I know this is a rather bold statement to make, but I haven’t come across any better explanation so far.  Let me give you an example…

I had a 19 year old patient with brain damage once.  She got it from bad cocaine (bad choice) and got some pretty severe brain damage that prevented her from being able to toilet and feed herself.  She was drooling constantly and she had no motor control of her arms and legs.  What was interesting about her was that she cried all the time and she turned her head away when I tried to feed her.  The medical team was unable to determine the extent of her brain damage and therefore could not understand why she was crying.

Deep down inside, I knew she realized she had screwed up badly.  I remember speaking to her gently when I washed her and changed her diaper, telling her I know she could understand me and that I haven’t given up on her.  All she could do was cry and shake her head at me.  She was getting thinner and thinner everyday.  The doctors wanted to put a tube in her to force feed her but I felt very uncomfortable with it because I knew she was capable of choosing.  I tried to get the medical team to re-evaluate their decision but they decided to proceed ordering the feeding tube insertion.  Concerned, I went to talk to my patient and told her that she had a choice, she could eat the homemade food brought in by her parents or the doctors were coming in to force feed her.  I told her I was sorry I couldn’t stop the doctors from making that decision, but she had a choice to make.  Guess what happened?  Before the doctor was about to insert the feeding tube, she started EATING!  I was so amazed!  Immediately after she ate some food, I washed her hair and braided her long dark hair and told her again, that I believed in her and I was so proud she made a choice to live.

Still the medical team was skeptical, they thought she would probably remain in a semi-vegetative state for the rest of her life.  Shortly after she started eating, she was transported to a care facility for people with brain injuries and I never worked with her again.

Two years later, while taking the elevator up the hospital building, a young vibrant hospital volunteer entered the elevator and noticed me right away.  She said “ARE YOU MAY?”.
I said, “Yes, I am.  Do I know you?
“I was your patient.  Do you remember me?” She beamed.
“I REMEMBER YOU!” I was so amazed at how absolutely beautiful she looked.  Her hair was long, flowing and shinny, her face vibrant with a tint of colour to compliment her features.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, I almost didn’t recognize her!
Our brief encounter ended when the elevator came to the 5th floor where she whisked off with a smile on her face, hurrying to help with the other patients leaving me with a big smile on my face.

I did not heal her, she healed herself.  All I could do, was to believe in her 🙂

All healing is self-healing.

My Ideal Shift

Two days ago I had set an intention on my “Nurse Anxiety” blog post. I wrote the following “ I am asking the universe to assign me patients with great attitude who can walk and talk.  I would like the universe to send me great people to work with.  Lastly,  I ask that I would be grounded and vibrating with a high frequencey throughout the day; as well as feeling healthy and energized after I have completed my shift.”

It is now one day after my shift and I am following up on whether my intentions were manifested…

I had a total of 4 patients.  Not bad since I usually get 5.  Three of them are clear in the head and able to walk to the bathroom on their own.  One patient couldn’t, in fact, she fell the night before attempting to get up by herself.  She was 96 years old, weak, disoriented, and spoke no English.  However, due to her condition, she was assigned a constant care aide that sat by her bedside at all times and assisted her with whatever she needed to do.  This contant care aide was so wonderful because she didn’t even mind helping some of my othre patients whenever they wanted something.  I also worked closely with another nurse who knew how to speak in the language my patient was able to understand.  I had a great day!! All my formal nursing related assessments were done in the first 30 minutes of my shift and I spent the rest of the day…I can’t even remember much about what I did for the rest of the day since it was so effortless. 

I did however, needed to spend about 12 hours sleeping after my shift was completed.  I slept from 12 am to 12 pm and felt very unsettled in my energy.  I didn’t really feel like being touched and I had to lie perfectly straight with my face up while sleeping.  If I attempted to turn or my husband attempted to snuggle closer I would immediately feel unsettled with some mild nausea.  I am still not sure why this happens but I hope to gain more understanding of this in the near future.

In summary, I thought my intentions manifested beautifully and I look forward to more effortless shifts in the future.

Nurse Anxiety

Today I got a call from the hospital staffing office asking me to work a day shift tomorrow from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm.  I accepted the shift because I had the intention I wanted to make money for myself and wasn’t able to do so since I had been sick for the past 2 months.

I was immediately overwhelmed with the sense of anxiety as soon as I had accepted the shift.  I call this the “Nurse Anxiety”.  This feeling is quite common amongst the nurses I work with and it is characterized by a sense of tention and nervousness prior to showing up at work.  I have spoken to fellow nurses who would often feel terrified the night before coming to work.  Many of them complained of insomnia and one nurse event told me she had nightmares. 

I began noticing the nurse anxiety phenomenon as soon as I started clinical rotations in nursing school.  I found it difficult to sleep the night before work and I had feel great resistance in actually showing up to work.  This consequently resulted in many, many sick calls the morning I was supposed to show up to work because I felt so anxious about going to work.

The work itself is very difficult, I work on a crazy acute medicine unit in a large metropolitan hospital where the patients are often very sick and lacking the ability to take care of themselves.  Due to the high acuity of patients on the medical floor, they are often unable to control their bowls and bladder — leaving the nurses scrambling to clean them up while trying very hard to manage their medical care. 

When I learned more about how I could create my own reality I began to apply this to my nursing practice.  Seven months ago I experimented with the idea that I could “create my ideal shift”.  Each morning before I left for work I would set the intention of having a nice and relaxing day at work.  I began to notice that I was often assigned patients who are less acutely ill.  If I had patients that needed a lot of attention I had great Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) assigned to help me.  I also began noticing an interesting trend — my patients would often get better or even discharged while I am caring for them.

I would like to conclude this post by setting the intention to create a very relaxing and fulfilling shift tomorrow.  I am asking the universe to assign me patients with great attitude who can walk and talk.  I would like the universe to send me great people to work with.  Lastly,  I ask that I would be grounded and vibrating with a high frequencey throughout the day; as well as feeling healthy and energized after I have completed my shift.