7 Things Nurses Deal with that Make Others Freak Out.

By: Lee Nelson

Being a nurse involves seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and dealing with some of life’s not-so-pleasant things. Nurses face it all from the grossest to the most stunning situations that would make the normal person squirm or run. They build up an immunity to it, but it’s still something that can make them very wary. Yet, they never stop a beat of helping the patients that they have been trained to see through it all.

“We see it all,” says Barb Gallogly. She is senior lecturer and coordinator for Post Baccalaureate Nursing Program at Henry Predolin School of Nursing at Edgewood College, Madison, Wis.

“We are the eyes of the physician and the ears of the respiratory therapist. We are in a position of privilege to be with the patients on a minute-to-minute basis. People trust us, and people open up to us,” she says.

And those patients trust them not to run away when things go from bad to worse or when they need them the most.

Things That Nurses Face That Make Them Unique, Strong And Oftentimes – Saints


It’s not pretty. “But sometimes some of us still gag at vomit and other things that come out of bodies,” says Kristin Gundt, chief nursing officer at Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. “It all depends on how much you are exposed to it, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it. We all have triggers that makes our own bodies react to it.”

Gallogly agrees that there are still things that make her gag. “But you have to rise above it, and work with it, and not to let your own personal feelings or reactions get in the way of good patient care,” she says. “A nurse must remain respectful of the patient and be calm when all hell breaks loose.” (Is your patient difficult beyond their physical condition?


In Gallogly’s office hangs a lithograph with a person who has germs all around and the words, “Please Wash Your Hands” stamped on it.

“I’m a germaphobe. As a new nursing grad, we didn’t wear gloves or masks back then. We never thought anything about it,” she says. “But now, there is anti-bacterial gel at every entrance – gel in and gel out. That’s hammered into our students now.”

She sees a lot of infected wounds, and a lot of people put into isolation because of infections. “Universal precautions don’t cut it anymore,” she says.


Sometimes when someone else is vomiting, the sound itself can set nurses off with their own gagging reflex. “Or sometimes you hear someone with diarrhea and the gas with it, and it can set something off in you, too,” Gundt says. “But we try to hide our reaction for the patient’s sake.”

She adds that one of the hardest smells to stomach is when a patient is bleeding from their intestines or stomach. “You might have to excuse yourself if you are going to gag or throw up. You don’t want to make the patient feel like even the nurses can’t tolerate it,” she says. “But it smells so bad.”


“We don’t know what death will be like from one person to the next. It can be smooth to really traumatic to really messy. It can be awful,” says Gundt.

One time comes to mind for her when she was a home health care nurse. The elderly lady had a relative come during the last stages of her death. The relative was panicking because she didn’t understand death and all the things that happen when the body shuts down

“People are incontinent. They can’t hold their bowels. Nothing in them is awake anymore,” she says. “So, I kept her clean, changed her and turned her, and made sure she got pain meds. I stayed with her and the relative. It’s the people that are alive that are panicking. People are scared to be alone with the person who is dying.”


“Most people’s jobs aren’t like this,” Gallogly says. “You learn really quickly to become a great multi-tasker and set priorities all the time. You usually have three or four things coming at you. You learn to delegate to others that can help you.”

Some days, it will be overwhelming. You leave work thinking that you didn’t do a good job. “With budget cuts, nurses are expected to do a lot more with less. It’s hard to give quality nursing care, and we want to take care of that whole person, but so much is coming at us. That’s frustrating,” she says.


“We don’t just take care of the person, but the whole person which includes the family,” Gallogly states. “If the family is demonstrating behavior that are precluding progress or treatment for the patient, then we pull them aside. You never know what is going on with them. We don’t know their histories. There is usually a reason for their behavior.”

She says it’s easy to label people as the “crazy daughter” or “hysterical mother.” But that doesn’t solve any problems or help anyone. “We try to explore those dynamics and include them in what we are doing with the patient,” she adds.


When people are sick, their behaviors aren’t necessarily their norm. “They lash out at us, hit us, spit on us and swear at us. There is a lot of physical and emotional abuse,” says Gundt. “Sometimes, it’s very unexpected. You never think some of these people will strike out at you because they seem stable as can be.”

Gundt adds that nurses try very hard to not put themselves in a situation to be hit or hurt. “If it’s a family member that we feel is being obnoxious, abusive or unrealistic, we won’t hesitate to escort them out or get someone to do so,” she says. “But we will start with way less restrictive methods. We try to keep people on our good side.”

Nursing isn’t all roses and sunshine. But most people understand that when they go into the profession. It’s not easy. It’s not always pretty. But for those who choose it, they say they do it because they want to help people. They want to educate people to live healthier, happier lives no matter what squeamish circumstances they have to confront.

Reposted from: https://nurse.org/articles/things-nurses-deal-with-that-make-others-squirm/

The Little Things.

“Yesterday I overheard a nursing student snark, “yeah, this is why I’m in nursing school – so I can pass trays.” And if I hadn’t been up to my eyeballs in other things to do for my patients, I would have stopped and said: You’ve already missed the point entirely.

I’m not sure why you DO think you’re here. If you hope to be a good nurse (or coworker, or person with a heart), you’re going to spend the majority of your working life doing things you SO mistakenly think are beneath you. You are going to pass trays with a smile – excitement even, when your patient finally gets to try clear liquids. You will even open the milk and butter the toast and cut the meat. You will feed full-grown adults from those trays, bite by tedious, hard-to-swallow bite. You will, at times, get your own vital signs or glucoscans, empty Foley bags and bedside commodes without thinking twice. You will reposition the same person, move the same three pillows, 27 times in one shift because they can’t get comfortable. You will not only help bathe patients, but wash and dry between the toes they can’t reach. Lotion and apply deodorant. Scratch backs. Nystatin powder skin folds. Comb hair. Carefully brush teeth and dentures. Shave an old man’s wrinkled face. Because these things make them feel more human again.

You will NOT delegate every “code brown,” and you will handle them with a mix of grace and humor so as not to humiliate someone who already feels quite small. You will change ostomy appliances and redress infected and necrotic wounds and smell smells that stay with you, and you will work hard not to show how disgusted you may feel because you will remember that this person can’t walk away from what you have only to face for a few moments.

You will fetch ice and tissues and an extra blanket and hunt down an applesauce when you know you don’t have time to. You will listen sincerely to your patient vent when you know you don’t have time to. You will hug a family member, hear them out, encourage them, bring them coffee the way they like it, answer what you may feel are “stupid” questions – twice even – when you don’t have time to.

You won’t always eat when you’re hungry or pee when you need to because there’s usually something more important to do. You’ll be aggravated by Q2 narcotic pushes, but keenly aware that the person who requires them is far more put upon.

You will navigate unbelievably messy family dramas, and you will be griped at for things you have no control over, and be talked down to, and you will remain calm and respectful (even though you’ll surely say what you really felt to your coworkers later), because you will try your best to stay mindful of the fact that while this is your everyday, it’s this patient or family’s high-stress situation, a potential tragedy in the making.

Many days you won’t feel like doing any of these things, but you’ll shelve your own feelings and do them the best you can anyway. HIPAA will prevent you from telling friends, family, and Facebook what your work is really like. They’ll guess based off what ridiculousness Gray’s Anatomy and the like make of it, and you’ll just have to haha at the poop and puke jokes. But your coworkers will get it, the way this work of nursing fills and breaks, fills and breaks your heart. Fellow nurses, doctors, NPs and PAs, CNAs and PCAs, unit clerks, phlebotomists, respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, speech therapists, transport, radiology, telemetry, pharmacy techs, lab, even dietary and housekeeping — it’s a team sport. And you’re not set above the rest as captain. You will see you need each other, not just to complete the obvious tasks but to laugh and cry and laugh again about these things only someone else who’s really been there can understand.

You will see clearly that critical thinking about and careful delivery of medications are only part of the very necessary care you must provide. Blood gushing adrenaline-pumping code blue ribs breaking beneath your CPR hands moments are also part, but they’re not what it’s all about. The “little” stuff is rarely small. It’s heavy and you can’t carry it by yourself. So yes, little nursling, you are here to pass



Reposted from: Whitney Koenig

A New Shift.

It’s been an incredibly busy term, so I haven’t had much time to keep up with my blog or really not think about anything outside of school. Since i’ve come back from my trip in the UK i’ve felt like I had to hit the ground running trying to keep up with all my work.

I’ve honestly really dreaded this term, moreso for the school aspect. To be honest, I think I say this every term, but really you think you’ve conquered one mountain (the last mountain) in nursing school only to be hit with another 2. That’s literally how nursing school feels like at times.

Pathophysiology has really kicked up a notch and now the midterms are over (I did okay), I still don’t feel like i’m sitting in a great spot walking into a full year cumulative exam. Considering I witnessed a number of people sitting in a similar spot fail pharmacology last term and have to stay back a year. Then on the other hand, I thought microbiology would be an okay course, but after that midterm yesterday i’m honestly starting to feel really discouraged with the whole course. It made me even more angry to hear her blame the students for “reading the questions” in the wrong lens, rather than accepting that maybe she made the exam too hard. I find it highly doubtful that 150 people (half the class on the left of the curve) are really that incompetent considering they made it this far in the program.

I think the only part i’ve really enjoyed about this term has been my clinical. As much as I hated how much the strike disrupted my term last semester, I’m really glad i’ve gotten to experience some 12 hour shifts. As exhausting as they are, they actually go by relatively quickly and it’s a great learning experience to actually spend a whole day on a single patient. I was fortunate enough to get to sit in on an endoscopy and colonoscopy and see what the procedure actually looks like and what the physicians look for and then the role of the surgical nurses and what part they play in the procedure and administering and maintain the anaesthesia. I was super fortunate that my patient was willing to let me use that as a learning experience considering how invasive the procedure is. My group as a whole have got to do some pretty cool things, like watching a toe get amputated (not super jealous considering I hate bones), injections almost every week, VRE swabs, or getting to go down to watch hemodialysis with their patients.

To be honest, I know i’ve mentioned it multiple times but I didn’t think i’d enjoy general medicine as much as I have so far. I know it’s definitely not an area I would want to work long-term post graduation, but it’s honestly been a tremendous learning experience and confidence booster. It’s still hard to get used to how to chart everything because there’s a lot but i’m so grateful for the nurses who have been there to answer my questions or make me think deeper.

I think my favourite shift had to have been last week. My patient was an elderly person who was in for something that had been relatively minor but because of her age impacted her ability to move. As a new nurse it always makes me a bit weary when delirium is mixed in because that increases their falls risk. When I asked how the patient ambulates (aka how do they move or get out of bed), the nurse simple stated that they didn’t. When I inquired further the nurse stated that the “patient was old and didn’t like to be moved and that was their right” and to “not worry about it”. Keep in mind this person had been in bed since they were admitted (ie multiple weeks). I felt very unsettled hearing that considering the importance of trying to at least encourage them to ambulate.

When I went to do my head to toe assessment, they were so pleasant and engaging. I was worried they’d be a bit confused having been woken up but they were quite chatty and I got to learn about their life and children and what it was like growing up in the area considering they have lived a relatively long life. I began to ask how they moved around. They began showing me some small exercises their family members had taught them and how she had a rotating lunch/dinner guest list their sister had made for them. I asked them if they wanted to try to get out of bed and why they had turned down physiotherapy’s assistance. This is when I found out that the physiotherapist that had tried to move them a month ago had tried to do a solo maneuver which hurt the patient and made them scared and that’s why they requested to stop.

It wasn’t until the patient’s grown child came later in the afternoon that we really began talking about the importance of moving and trying to understand why physiotherapy never came back to reassess them. I also brought up how nice it would be for the patient to at least be able to sit in a chair for a few hours a day to get some mobility and a different spot to enjoy her paper. Luckily in the moment, the nurse who reported to me stepped in to check on us since her patient was next door and I asked if it was possible to explain to the family why this issue was never re-addressed with the patient. I also brought up that maybe we could at least get them a geriatric chair to sit in as a start and that maybe we could order a new re-assessment to be done for the patient. While the nurse seemed a little flustered to not be able to explain the whole situation or the details (because they obviously just took the blind advice of others) it was at least a start. No patient should ever be left in bed because it increases the risks of pressure ulcers, DVT, infection (especially in lying supine), loss of muscle, depression, etc. While a patient has every right to decide what to do, as a nurse we have a duty to at least ask every day or explain the importance of moving.

It was evident from my patient showing me their mini expercises and bicycle kicks that they wanted to retain mobility and strength and wanted to get out of bed, but no one ever had asked them what they wanted to do or why they had turned down physiotherapy. Moving a patient alone can be scary for both partners, and it made me angry that no one had really investigated this further but rather played it up to the patient age. The patient shouldn’t have to be in bed for that long, considering they had already developed pressure ulcers on the coccyx and heel.

It wasn’t until I came back from my dinner break and went to check on my patient and perform vitals that I had found that the nurse had brought up her a geriatric chair to use the next day. Seeing the look on their face honestly made my entire day. They were so happy and grateful to be able to attempt to use it tomorrow. While it made me a bit sad to inform her I wouldn’t be her nurse tomorrow when they asked, I knew they’d be in good hands with another student nurse the next day. But to hear a patient actually thank me and say because of my actions I made it happen for them and that they’d think of me when they sat in the chair tomorrow made me incredibly grateful to be in this profession. As silly or small as it sounds, to the patient this was momentous.

But really, the patient shouldn’t have to thank me. I did my job. As a nurse I have a duty to advocate for my patients, and this was just simply that. They deserved more than what they were getting and if it were my loved ones I would expect the same from the nurse caring for them had I not gone into this field. I know nursing can be stressful, tiring, and demanding, but at the same time patient safety should triumph everything. I

t makes me angry when nurses sit around (especially when they have students taking patients off their load) and they sit their on the internet or phone ignoring the call bells because “it’s not their patient”. Yes it can be daunting to go into a room and know nothing about the patient (ie. falls risk, medication allergies), but the LEAST we can do is check what is wrong the patient perhaps they are lonely or scared, confused, and offer a bit of comfort or direction, or perhaps it is something more urgent and serious but can wait a bit. But even in those cases we can at least inform them that we will let their beside nurse know and acknowledge their call for help.

Having lost their independence, knowing they’d never be able to live on their own again and basically losing the ability to walk over night, it was something that meant a lot to them. Just to be able to sit in an actual chair again, even if for a few hours a day.

While I know I won’t get the same patient again tomorrow, I am excited to know I have one more 12 hour shift this term where I can go back and hopefully pull up a chair beside them in their new chair and chat. Being in a hospital room can be pretty boring and dreary but I think it’s kind of cool that while i’m still new I have the time to do these kinds of things and really get to know the patients as a person rather than as a number.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but i’m excited to find out when I get back on to the floor tomorrow morning and meet a new face.



Cultural Competence in Promoting End-of-Life Care for Muslim Patients.

Just a little infographic I put together last term as part of my learning plan. Cultural competence is essential in providing patient centred care.

As healthcare providers we need to be aware of our patient’s backgrounds as it often has a direct influence on promoting well-being in our patients. It can relate to why our patient isn’t eating, thinking at a deeper level maybe the patient or the GI system is not used to the food being served at the bedside. Perhaps as a nurse, it is important to advocate for our patients in obtaining the foods they are accustomed to (ex. rice).

I think sometimes in healthcare we fail to recognize things that are quite important to our patients. Part of what inspired me to create this learning plan was having had the opportunity to sit in the nurse’s lounge on my first shift and overhearing the nurses talk about a particular patient who was at the end of their life. They were not quite sure how to fulfill this patients personal and religious wishes and could not understand why the patient’s family refused to remove him from life sustaining measures, even after multiple family meetings were held.

Having not understood where these issues stemmed from, I decided to do a bit of research into the patient’s faith and quickly discovered that removing the patient off of life-support would be considered suicide under Islamic faith.

While we can’t be expected to know everything as nurses, we should do our due diligence in researching things, particularly in regards to religious backgrounds. Religion is a huge part in many of our patients lives, and being able to incorporate or understand particular aspects is vital in promoting health and well-being.

Anyways, just some food for thought 🙂



12 Hours.

A lot can happen in 12 hours. It’s crazy to think this is what my life is going to look like, i’ve never learned so much in anything prior to my first 12 hour clinical experience. The mental, physical and emotional high you ride through your shift. As a second year we don’t typically get 12 hours shifts, but because of the disruption to our clinicals we had last term, I was lucky to get three 12 hour shifts and the rest being the regular 8 hours.

It was daunting entering my first shift yesterday. Having spent the week prior in the UK for my Master’s graduation I missed the transition day of having a partner to manage one patients and get acquainted with the unit. I was nervous to be alone with a patient and not be in a familiar environment, but I SURVIVED. I am incredibly grateful to have had a pleasant patient who was understanding and the help of the fellow upper year student nurse who pulled me aside to teach me new things and help keep me on task. I am even more grateful to have had a tutor who believed in my capabilities of managing my own patient and who was there any time I needed them to double check my medications or answer my questions.

Post shift, I must say it is daunting. HOW DO NURSES DO IT? I only had one patient to take care of for the day (my first solo patient ever and first shift in my new hospital) but even just doing a head-to-toe assessment, vitals, charting, and preparing his medications took me until 9am.  Let alone the full-time nurses who have 3-4 patients each and have to have all those tasks done by 9 am so the healthcare team can do rounds. It doesn’t help when most of the patients are in isolation because of the flu/MRSA/VRE and you have to gown up each time you leave and enter their room (better remember everything the first time!). Black. Magic.

It’s crazy how much nurses have to keep on top of things, whether it’s 0800, 1200, 0500 medications, charting (can’t bring papers into isolation room), addressing emergencies that pop up or concerns, dressing wounds, health teaching, meeting with family to talk,  accompanying patients to appointments on different floors, bathing them and other personal hygiene measures, having everything ready for report, keeping on top of new orders/lab results, taking swabs, in some cases feeding patients by hand, getting them up and around, arranging a patient’s day and keeping on top of what goes on (how much they drink and output). It doesn’t seem like much, but when you actually see what goes on behind the scenes it’s baffling. By the end of my shift I was scrambling to chart everything, change dressings, and helping others with tasks like trying to get an IV into a patient who was delirious or finding a manual bed alarm for a patient who almost fell out of bed. I can see why nurses have such a high burnout rate or why moral distress is such a prevalent issue in the field.

I think one of the most important things that i’ve taken out of my Master’s degree is recognizing issues that don’t align with my values and how to slowly start to address them. More importantly i’ve come to realize the need for patient advocacy and my role as a nurse to help patients have their voices heard. I came across a patient yesterday who had a nephrostomy bag in which when I walked into their room during the start of my shift was in a bath basin floating in urine. I had never come across one of these bags, but I knew it wasn’t normal. What made me even more sad was after my assessments I was planning my day of how to get the patient up and out of bed and they mentioned wanting to go for a walk. Seeing the situation as a whole, it made me sick to my stomach to think this individual would have to lug this container of urine because the bag had been leaking, out in public, and not only feel uncomfortable with people watching them but also the fact that it was simply a hazard both physically (ie. slips) and health wise (ie. a super highway for infection). When I brought up my concerns to the overseeing student nurse she stated that in rounds they simply played it down to a behavior issue and blamed the individual for tinkering with it rather than making any effort to find a new bag somewhere else in the hospital. I’m incredibly grateful for my nursing tutor who came in to check on me and believe me when I mentioned that this was not normal and that he needed a new bag ASAP. Even to get a new bag was a mission and a half with one hospital unit complaining it would come out of their budget. Since when has it become acceptable to withhold healthcare from individuals? UTIs are prevalent in the hospital setting and seeing the state of this bag (which had been tapes with wound dressing rather than waterproof tape) was unacceptable. I can’t imagine how the situation would have looked had my tutor not been around to help me advocate for the patient in addressing the situation and scavenging the hospital for a new bag. Thinking of it was someone I loved being the in the patient’s position I would feel disgusted and angry to not have a voice in the care I receive because of my age or health condition (ie. depression, dementia).

Honestly in 12 hours, a lot can change. From patients developing delirium and becoming confused to patients dying. I experienced my first death yesterday and let me tell you it’s nothing as how the television perceives it to be. It’s cold, lonely, and in a way mechanical as in the steps are set out in hospital policy. It’s a strange feeling to look at a patient and see them lifeless especially when you had seen them in a better state the week prior, I mean as a healthcare professional we want all our patients to go home happy and healthy but the reality is some don’t and for many who do go home not at a optimal quality of life. I can’t really explain what the death process is like, but I learned a lot about how I can help make it the best it can be. Simple measures like washing the body, closing the eyes, putting on a pair of briefs and providing privacy are things I can do to help. Visiting the morgue was surreal in it’s blandness, it’s kind of unsettling to think about in that at the end of life you end up alone in a cold fridge waiting to be taken to a funeral home or be released for other measures.

It’s eye opening to how many people are death-phobic, I had a great discussion with a professor today about this phenomenon in nursing and how nursing schools do a poor job at preparing nurses to deal with death. Even within my own group a couple students found the patient’s death hard to deal with. I think nursing schools need to do a better job to improve our own awareness and understanding of the dying and death processes. How we can sort out or feelings from our professional duties and have them work together. I think death in itself is powerful, it’s inevitable, and the only I can do in the process is to respect the being that once filled that body and help transition it to the next phase. I can’t control or stop death (when medical interventions fail or are futile) but I can help by being respectful and giving the individual a respectful send off to the next realm.

I’ll be honest leasing the hospital that night, I now know what it smells likes and I also now appreciate sleep more. Being ‘on’ for 12 hours straight is a lot, but the learning experience I had yesterday was incredible. I didn’t think I would enjoy general medicine, but the variety of patients (age, health conditions, tasks) has been eye opening and a much more enlightening experiencing than my first placement at another local hospital. Honestly, i’m looking forward to my weekly clinical now and how much I will grow as a nurse through the term.

While entering the hospital before the sun rises and leaving long after it sets has it’s downsides, the work nurses do fills my soul, while the smell of hospital fills my hippocampus and nares. There’s nothing that I would change though or that a good night’s sleep, shower, and strong laundry wash cycle can’t fix.


Megan S

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018.

With the disruption from the college strike, my life was in a bit of a disarray.  I was also feeling a bit depressed during the holidays and I caught myself in those moods and found ways to adjust my coping strategies.

I’ve been pretty fortunate in people being able to turn to me in times of distress and i’m happy to have helped a few people work on their mental health over the past couple months. I know for many people opening up about their struggles with depression and anxiety can be tough, but I have always and will always be there to support anyone in need and I have a number of resources to direct people to. I think I will therefore make a goal for 2018 to to take part in Mental Health First Aid and be able to offer support to those around me.

I must say, the final exams I wrote so far for last term were highly discouraging. I know I am not alone when I say that, but regardless it does take a pretty big hit to your self-worth as a student when you write exams that are seemingly much harder than what you were prepared for. I must say, despite writing some pretty awful exams (and I mean 60s) I still managed to pass last term with and am surprised I even managed to pull off a B in pharmacology.

I’m moreso proud of myself for successfully passing my first clinical rotation. There aren’t any words to really describe your first clinical experience except you feel lost, confused, and like you don’t know anything especially when given your very first solo patient assignment. Let alone when patients are looking at you and watching what you’re doing and nurses are talking to you about your treatment plan. I was given some pretty challenging cases by my preceptor (generally not given to second years) but managed to pull it together and learn quite a bit. Losing out on 5 weeks of a strike in the big picture isn’t a lot, but in the moment it felt worse than it was. Having so many disruptions really takes a toll on my groups (and other classmates) ability to practice our skills and discover and address our learning gaps. However, i’m incredibly proud of the people I had in my group for creating a supportive environment for all of us to grow and success and pass our rotation.

Over the term I grew not only as a student nurse but as an advocate for my patients. I’m grateful for my experience pursuing my Master’s and believe that it’s really helped me to gain a better understanding of my patients as a whole and seemingly it was evident in post-conference talks and the work I turned in. It was even more rewarding to sit down with my tutor for my final evaluation and be recognized for the issues I brought up and the work I put into helping the rest of my group. I feel empowered and encouraged to continue on the path i’m on and to know others have recognized my passion for making a difference in not only healthcare but within my community. I’m grateful to have had such a supportive tutor to guide me through the term and firmly believe that in time I will help change the face of nursing in the role of policy advising to the top levels of government even when it was hard for me to gauge where I was at.

While my next rotation in general medicine will help me build my foundational skills, it still sucks that I lost out on such a great opportunity being in a chest unit. I know in time these rotations help us figure out where we want to do our final consolidations, but i’ll be even more excited (if things go well this term) to get into peds and maternal units.

I must say with this terrible bone-chilling cold weather I am excited to head back to England in a couple weeks to see some good friends and walk across the stage to collect my degree. Hard work has slowly paid off and i’m even moreso excited to see where 2018 will take me in my nursing journey. Therefore, I think a second goal I have for 2018 is to get more involved in community and nursing advocacy through the RNAO, ONA, and CNA as a student member.

Hopefully i’ll get over this cold and actually start the new year on a fresh foot soon. I know it’s cold and flu season, so I remind everyone to practice that HAND HYGIENE.



The Times You Live In.

It’s been a chaotic few weeks to say the least. I’m grateful for having had the chance to get away for my reading week and take some time to focus on something other than school.

I guess I would say the past couple weeks have been filled with a lot of anxiety and recurrences of my depression. Coming back into school to find out half my courses are cancelled because of a provincial wide strike was a bit much. I pay to learn and I pay to gain experience but yet half my courses including my clinical have been shut down until an agreement has been reached between the two parties. It’s a pretty crappy feeling to not be able to do something you love. It’s even worse when you come across articles pointing out the strike will be ‘protracted’ and previous strike have been 3 weeks +.

I guess I shouldn’t complain too much because I have at least my science courses to focus on and i’m grateful for what the Faculty has done in moving our classes to off campus locations across the city. I also can still attend my community placement which is also always a treat. I think the more I work with kids, the more I enjoy what I do.

Aside from that I can finally say I have recovered from strep throat. I’m usually not one to go see a doctor but even that was rough, who would think a sore throat could cause THAT much misery over three days. It got to the point I realized ibuprofen, lozenges, and my throat spray were not doing anything that I decided I needed to make a visit to the doctor. After sitting in a lecture and half way through googling the nearest walk-in clinic because I had chills and was literally in the most pain i’d ever experienced. I have a lot of respect for people that get it often, it was terrible.

But obviously bad news comes in threes….lucky me. Last week also saw my first car accident happen. Physically I was okay but emotionally I was shaken (or ‘shook’ as the youngin’s say). It was an experience and it still gives me anxiety if I think to hard about it but it’d definitely a learning experience and luckily the car can be fixed and my health is okay. I would say i’ll be more on edge driving now and I choose to walk more to do things rather than drive, but in time my confidence will grow again for driving but for now it’ll be one step at a time.

Aside from that, life is moving forward and i’m just trying to focus on making it through this term. The past couple weeks i’ve found myself in a rut where i’m not feeling motivated but then stress myself out because I don’t feel motivated. A vicious cycle. I guess it’s exciting to think I may actually have a long Christmas break this year (permitted everything goes smoothly) finishing around mid-December. Hopefully will also hear some positive news in regards to the results of my Master’s dissertation in the coming weeks.  Hopefully the new year will see me heading to London to collect my degree and see some good friends :).



A Letter to the Baby Nurses.

Right now, there is a baby nurse who is searching online and deep inside for an answer. There is a brand new member of the profession who is questioning her calling. There is a newly-minted graduate who wonders how school seemed to teach her everything and nothing all at the same time. There is a greener-than-grass new hire who is praying that she doesn’t kill somebody at work tomorrow, and wonders if she already did yesterday.

Dearest baby nurse, don’t let this scary new world drag you down. You’re going to have moments when you are sitting on a toilet seat for far too long, probably for the first time in your entire shift, and question why you even decided to become a nurse in the first place. That’s okay.

You’re going to have days — many of them — when you plop down in your car after leaving work two hours later than anticipated; and you’re going to turn off the radio; and you’re going to roll down the windows; and you’re going to cry the most painful and ugly cry. That’s okay.

You’re going to have shifts where your head is spinning and your hands are shaking and your brain is thinking faster than your fingers can type. That’s okay.

You’re going to have moments when you clean more bodily fluids in one 12-hour day than an average person might in a lifetime. You’re going to feel that — sometimes — you’re the only person on the entire unit, because everyone around you is just as busy as you are. That’s okay.

You’re going to have times when patients yell at you for something you didn’t know (that perhaps you should have). They will complain about you to anyone that might listen. They may even become so frustrated with their care that they threaten to leave. And this is going to bother the hell out of you. That’s okay.

You’re gonna listen for 20 minutes and still not hear a damn murmur. That’s okay.

You’re going to have moments when you feel like something “just isn’t right” with the patient in your care. You won’t have enough experience as a frame of reference for what may be happening, or why. You’re probably going to feel helpless in these moments — it’s a “tip of the tongue” phenomenon to the highest degree. That’s okay.

You’re going to feel devastated the first time a veteran nurse yells at you — even more so when their reaction is for something nit-picky and non-essential. You’re going to mumble something unsavory about them under your breath. That’s okay.

You’re going to call a doctor to clarify an order, and she’s going to complain. She’s going to want answers, details, vital signs, and a picture of what is happening with your patient, and you’re going to word-vomit something that probably makes very little sense to an angry cardiologist at 3 a.m. That’s okay.

You’re going to walk into a room expecting to pass your morning medications and come to find your patient unresponsive. Maybe she’s stopped breathing. Perhaps she’s lost a pulse. Either way, you’re going to bring forward everything you learned in every class, clinical, and scenario — and forget how to do any of it. You’re going to scream for help. You’re going to look like a deer in headlights. And you’re going to wonder, “When the hell am I ever going to be able to be as good as they are?” That’s okay.

You’re going to lose that patient, on an unexpected shift, and in an unexpected way. You’re going to think it was your fault. You’re going to be riddled with guilt and feel ashamed of how you reacted. You’re going to replay that scenario in your head over and over again, and every time wonder why you didn’t see it coming. You can’t always see it coming. You can’t always be the hero. And that’s okay.

Because someday you will be.

Someday you’ll understand the subtleties and nuances that no one can teach you except for time Herself.

Someday you’ll be able to balance the full-fledged mountain emergencies with the miniature mole-hill ones.

Someday you’re going to address a patient or family member who is frustrated with a sense of firm yet compassionate care, and will know how to redirect their emotions.

Someday you will call a doctor, and she will thank you for keeping such a close eye on whatever concern you’ve already handled.

Someday you’re going to finally take a lunch break, and it will actually be during lunchtime.

Someday you’re going to do chest compressions or inject medications or ventilate a patient, and your paralyzing fear will be replaced by sheer adrenaline.

Someday, somebody is going to die on your watch — but whether it’s through blood, sweat, and heroics or a quiet and accepted end — you will have made a difference in the journey of that patient and his or her loved ones.

And while some days you may still feel like a hamster on a wheel, going through the motions just to stay afloat — someday you will realize that you are not the one sinking and needing to be saved. Rather, you’ve grown into a life raft for another baby nurse, insecure and unaware of all of her untapped potential.

Someday you will understand that the nursing profession is perhaps the hardest of them all, but in so many different ways, the most rewarding.

And someday you will stand up for yourself; stand up for your patients; and stand up to the barriers that impact your highest capacity to care — this day will remind you why you trudged through every tear, scream, and exasperated sigh.

So do not give up, baby nurse: new to the world in which nurses beget nurses; still questioning why nothing ever ends up like the texts books might have said. No matter how bad it feels — no matter how hard it seems — always turn to the nurses who can teach you that one can have a brilliant mind and a beautiful soul; one can be funny when things feel too serious; one can be tough as nails and still be softened by the circumstances; one can make mistakes and still maintain integrity. Stand your ground, baby nurse; ask questions; study hard; prioritize what matters; own up when you don’t know; and don’t let anyone beat you down — especially that little voice in your own head. If you allow yourself to do it, you’ll be amazed by how quickly a baby nurse can grow.

Lovingly cheering you on,
A Former Baby Nurse

Reposted from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sonja-mitrevskaschwartzbach-bsn-rn-ccrn/baby-nurses_b_8446990.html

First Clinical Shift.

I’ve honestly never felt so overwhelmed in my life entering the clinical portion of my program. Friday was my first day as a level 2 clinical student! I finally reached a big milestone in working with actual patients :O

It’s crazzzzzy how much nurse’s know and the things that are expected of us. I mean I always knew it wasn’t an easy jbo, but when you actually see what goes on behind the scenes, it’s eye opening.

Don’t get me wrong, I was completely excited by the opportunity to finally be in hospital, but i’m also so nervous to be seen as incompetent by the veteran nurses on the floor.

I realize it’s pretty normal to have the experience be nerve wrecking, i’m grateful my clinical group and mentor are all very open about our feelings and are all eager to learn and grow from our experiences. I’ve been slowing trying to change my mind set from one of wanting to impress and be the “star” of the group, to one of which I want to try to use these rotations to learn as much as possible.

While I’m happy to have been given my first choice of placement, I knew my instinct it would likely not be an area in which I would want to specialize and focus on in the future. I picked the Chest unit, largely because of the exposure it would given to to common diseases like COPD, asthma, and lung cancers, but also because of the fact I would get to better understand and differentiate between lungs sounds. I wasn’t particularly fond of the respiratory assessments in first year, partially because I don’t really know what i’m supposed to be listening for. While simulated mannequins are great for understanding placements of the stethoscope and palpating, they don’t really give you a realistic understanding of what the lungs actually sounds like in practice. I mean sometimes when you listen the heart sounds can be distracting or sometimes if the patient is wheezing, you might not get a clear picture of the heart beating.

Regardless of whether I love the chest unit by the time December rolls around, I will be grateful for everything i’ve learned. I’m excited to make a difference in patient care. I get being the ‘baby nurse’ i’ll get delegated tasks that aren’t so glamorous (ex. bed washes, cleaning poop/vomit/pus/saliva, inserting catheters), but I do believe every aspect of nursing care has an important place in making a patient feel cared for. Sometimes the smallest things have the biggest impact, how great does it feel to sit in a clean night gown, have your hair brushed, or even have a cleanly shaven face? While I want to help provide the medical aspects of nursing care, the other aspects are just as or even more important.

They say life is what you make of it, well, it is my opinion that the same is true for clinical and preceptorship experiences.  I know mistakes will happen The important thing to do is to learn from them, and move forward. While I feel overwhelmed now, having never had the chance to perform many of the skills I learned in person (ex. catheter insertions) I know skills will come with time and practice.

While i’ve already had days where I’ve questioned if nursing is for me. I know in time these days will become few and far between, and I will feel the rewards of nursing.  I look forward to the day when a patient’s thanks me and this appreciation will make all the hard work of pushing through nursing school worth it.

While sometimes I want to believe that i’m a super hero and can do everything on the first short, I know everything won’t always be perfect, but with a positive attitude, I can hopefully make my experience this term a great and rewarding one.



Chapter Closed.

Ah, finally I can sit in peace and focus on writing a blog post. I can’t believe i’m already back in schools ready for round 2. Summer seems like a blur and it’s probably because of all the schooling and work I had to undertake to get caught up.

I’m proud to say i’m finished my Master’s (at least until Results day in November). All 14,998 words. I must say finishing my physiology course and having to jump straight into finishing my dissertation was a rough go. Why I thought it was a good idea to work 40-55 hours a week is beyond me, but somehow I did it. To but it into context, it took me 2 DAYS to sort through all the footnotes, citations, and bibliography and organize it all. While it’s now finished I have not yet had the courage to go back over and look at the hard copies I had printed out of fear knowing there will obviously be mistakes. While I realize work at the Master’s level does not have to be publishable, the perfectionist in me would go bonkers knowing it’s there. So to not throw myself in a downward spiral of total despair i’ve decided to withhold looking (plus i’m over writing it and thinking about it for the time being).

I think the one things i’m grateful for having done medical ethics as my Master’s is for the expansion in the way I think about things. To understand ethical decision making models and work through it. There’s no right or wrong answer in every case and going into clinical practice I know there will not always be things that line with my personal values. It’s how I can hopefully align those two differing values that will work to prevent increasing my own moral distress and prevent burn out. I also want to help my patients walk through difficult situations where things aren’t always clear and help them work through their own ethical dilemmas.

I must say while i’m excited for problem-based learning this year (largely because of it’s focus on ethics!), I am weary of pathophysiology, pharmacology, and bio-stats. It’s a bit hard to fathom how I made it knowing 30 people (our of a class of 120) were not able to move forward into second year because of failing courses by such a small margin in most cases (1-2%). I know I worked my butt off to be in the position I am, but at the end of the say all of us came into this program as highly intelligent individuals. I also knew when to ask for help when I was struggling whether seeing accommodation for my depression and anxiety, seeking out additional tutoring sessions to understand biochemistry, or even buying additional resources to bulk up my knowledge, but I also realize I was fortunate in having had previous undergraduate experience. In any program failure happens, but I think on some level it’s a wake up call to know that failure does happen and sometimes its not the smartest people that advance but those that put in the work, but its hard not to feel anxious when it is a reality.

I think of the thoughts that has been on my mind most recently have been the concepts brought up in the book ‘Lean In’. I’ve been thinking a lot about where my nursing journey will be taking me, particularly where my interests lie. I’ve found myself to always be interested in maternity, but lately due to my community placement i’ve really enjoyed working with kids. I know in my heart clinical nursing isn’t always something I will be passionate about, shift work can be incredibly draining and not conducive to raising a family, which is why I think clinical ethics will be one option I am eager to explore.

I want to make a difference. I want to lead. I want change. I want to succeed.  Those are my mantras in life. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how growing up as a female I’ve seen young males groomed to be in positions of leadership. Yet i’ve noticed females have always lagged behind. A clear example that comes to mine was having someone so close to me tell me he “could never be with someone that made more than him”. As in the male always had to be the bread winner, keep in mind this is the same person that felt emasculated having a female choose to not change her last name to his. To be honest, having read ‘Lean In’ I can say i’ve been put in a positions where I felt I could not advance myself because I was a female and had to ‘follow’ these societal norms that seem to exist.

Its incredibly distressing to see the number of female students pursuing post-secondary education but yet is not reflective of the board room. How as a female I am penalized for choosing to have children, even though in most cases its a decision made by both the male and the female and because of this I lose out on the same opportunities that would be extended to my male colleagues. To be fair, it’s also unfair that males are also looked down upon to take advantage of paternal leave to spend time with their children and raise them in an equal manner.

I think another thing that irks me is when people think that females are bossy for being assertive but when males act in the same manner they are seen as “leaders”. I’ve ALWAYS been ambitious and motivated to improve my self and make a difference at some level.  Yet, i’ve noticed sometimes people can find me intimidating because of a number of factors whether it was my upbringing, my education level, or even my goals for the future. On some level, I used to let that control me and it destroyed my self-esteem, making me question my values, goals, and self-worth. It’s taken time but slowly i’ve found myself returning back to normal and feeling excited about where the future will take me. I realize now RN positions in Ontario are limited, particularly in places I want to hopefully live, but I also know Canadian nurses are so highly regarded that the world is really my oyster and with so much to explore I sometimes find myself not knowing where to start.

I’m grateful to have had many great mentors along the way who have helped guide me down this path and shaped my goals for the future. It wasn’t until recently that i’ve reach back out to some of my most notable mentors and thanked them for the opportunities they provided me and the guidance and support they showed me in pursing my Master’s and for peaking my interests in nursing. I’m incredibly lucky to have had an enriching undergraduate experience in being well supported by a caring academic advisor (who i’m still in touch with), my fourth year practicum supervisor, my professional ethics professor, my profs in the UK, and the director of the health studies program who have all played important roles in who I am now. I think one of the most important things as not only a female, but also a person, is to find someone you look up to and connect with them and don’t be afraid to reach out to people in areas your interested in. It’s important to have that support and to know that while all our paths may not be the same, having someone in your life in that position can make a huge difference on days where you may not feel capable of reaching your goals (ie. working through pathophysiology).

My path to nursing school has not been conventional and i’ve hit many bumps along the way (ie. my battles with depression and anxiety), but I hope my journey can inspire other young people to know that life is full of funny twists and turns. It’s also helpful to know someone else feels the same way sometimes and that we aren’t alone in our journeys. In some ways its therapeutic to read about the experience of others when a lot of the resources out there for mental illness are inadequate in meeting the needs of an individual seeking help.

In time I hope to be more open about my experiences throughout nursing school and clinical practice in helping to fuel passion in other individuals whether it be in medicine or any other field, particularly in girls where opportunities to lead are not always high on the list. We need more people seeking to lead and make a difference in a world where we have people like Trump in power and in this regard we need to encourage and teach females that we can’t let someone with such disgusting views limit our visions.  I want to be part of the movement that encourages and evokes positive changes. We need to empower people to think, we need to promote opportunities to those disadvantaged, and we need to spark innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship in a world where technological advances are taking opportunities away from people.