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Nursing Experience

Nursing Experience

Lessons and wisdom learned from my nursing experience.


April 2023

I started my nursing career in Virginia, not far from Washington, DC. Then I had a choice to stay there or move to California with my partner. I had only been to California once but after a horrible winter as a homecare nurse I escaped to the beautiful and tepid weather. I could have stayed in Virginia where I was comfortable and felt safe. Or move 3,000 miles away without an apartment or a job. To quote Robert Frost, "two roads diverged in the woods, and I took the one less traveled." Or at least the one less traveled by me.

I have quite a few jobs in nursing but each one has prepared me to be a great nursing preceptor and instructor.

Spinal cord injury and stroke rehabilitation taught me how to work as part of a tea. There are many members working together with one goal, to get the patient home or to their chosen residence. As a rehab nurse you had to see the patient as a complete picture. If you only focused on the skills the patient needed then you would miss the spiritual and emotional issues that go with a catastrophic injury or disease.

Home care required you to work as part of a team but also to work alone with little support and oversight. The RN Case Manager led the team and asked for assistance as needed from the other disciplines like PT, OT, Speech, Social Worker, Chaplain and Home health aide. Medicare would only pay for a few visits, so your assessment and teaching skills had to be excellent.
The jobs I had in big hospitals like Stanford and UCSF taught me how to manage stress effectively. If you did not manage your stress and learn how to manage your time those positions would have chewed me up and spit me out. The jobs in smaller, community hospitals helped me to hone my patient centered care skills and furthered my ability to work as part of a team.

Apheresis required a great deal of technical expertise. You had to have an eye for detail and quick reflexes to deal with side effects of the treatments. It also tested my patience as waiting for central lines to be placed could take all day. This is the place where I saw medical miracles. A paralyzed Guillain Barre patient could have feeling and movement in their upper body after the first treatment. And I saw how vital blood is to our overall wellbeing. Blood is a miracle!

Hospice taught me about living in the present moment and not taking life for granted. In the 6 years I spent in Hospice over 500 patients died who had been assigned to my caseload. That's 600 daughters or sisters or sons or cousins or neighbors or staff that I had to interact with and help in the worst moments of their (and the patients) lives. It taught me that when our "time is up" it's up and there is little we can do to stop the movement of Death. Hospice made me a better active listener and taught me how to communicate effectively. Most importantly it taught me to listen to my intuition about the "nearness of Death". Every nurse should work in Hospice for a year. You will see what we are doing to our elderly in the name of lifesaving procedures. Too many died from the effects of the treatment that was supposed to extend their life.

Teaching has made me a better learner. I know 1,000% more now than I did in all my years of nursing because I had to break it down so my audience would understand. To teach a subject you need to know it well. Teaching patients made me a better instructor because you cannot teach until you connect with that patient. I wasted so much time teaching at patients than with patients.

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