The Pilgrimage.

My journey with bedside nursing is ending. Rather, it is evolving. I have a handful of shifts remaining until I start my new job as a nurse practitioner. I always knew this transition would happen. I planned for it and entered nursing ready to make this change. Now that it is here, my soul is feeling a little uneasy. The comfort of the bedside, of my home, will be gone. This new role brings an abundance of new responsibility, pressure, and expectation. I am ready. Maybe. As I embark on the new beginning, I want to reflect back on what the last few years have meant to me. Grab a beer, some tissues, and a puke bucket (sorry in advance).

I was 18 when I touched my first dead body. I was working as a nursing assistant and the patient died within 15 minutes of my first shift. A coworker whispers to me:

“Grab some wash clothes, a body bag kit, and gloves. Make sure the toe tag is in the kit.”

My heart retracted into my belly and I tasted the acidic fluid of impending vomit. I went to the bathroom, washed off my face, and took a deep breath. If I could do this, I could do anything. I met my coworker back in the room and we began washing the patient’s body. It was eery, beautiful, peaceful, and scary all in one moment. We turned her over, only to hear one final exhale as her lung collapsed. It sounded like a sign of relief. The pain was over. She may rest now. I slipped the toe tag over her toe and starred. My eyes felt wet and stingy, but I didn’t comprehend those tears until minutes later. I went back to home to my dorm, snuck a beer out from under my bed, and reflected back on the day. I knew I would wake up tomorrow and go back for more.

Nursing school was weird. My first clinical rotation consisted of about 10 overly stressed type-A ducklings wandering aimlessly around a hospital unit. I still recall one of my first patients. He was a anatomy professor who recently was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. His shaky hands frightened me. I did not know whether to try to help or just watch him struggle to open his juice. He sensed my unease and talked me through most of his care. He is a very vivid memory for me. He told me about the famous Patch Adams quote that set the precedent for how I wanted to treat patients:

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”

Ok, so I am surviving nursing school and things are looking up. I am learning everyday and I got a job as a nurse intern for the summer. The position was in the ICU. I felt prepared! I bought new scrubs and a clipboard. I figured that combination would make me invincible! Let me tell you about the first day on the job. About two hours into the shift, I heard an overhead page for “Code Blue.” A chaos ensues and you can feel the shift in energy in the air. A patient is wheeled into the ICU. A guy grabs me by the arm and says:

“Go stand at the head of the bed and help bag the patient. Then, jump in for a round of compressions.”

I have been in the ICU for two hours. Two hours, people. So, I run over to the room and wedge myself between the headboard and the back wall. I can feel the hot fluorescent light beat down. My gelatinous legs barely hold me up. The patient looked up at me and asked:

“Am I going to die? Please, please don’t let me.”

I did what I thought was right. I looked down, our heads opposite one another, and I told her that she would be ok. She died about 15 minutes later. I am still haunted by that encounter. That was almost 5 years ago, and I see her face in my dreams.

Ok this is getting heavy. Let me lighten things up.

Fast forward to working as a new graduate nurse. Everything I learned in nursing school was lost and I trudged through the dark waters…trying to simply avoid killing someone. The first few months were terrifying as I was trying to find my footing as a nurse. To this day, I have never made a med error. I think a lot of that has to do with me checking the medication/patient 10333259 times before administering the dose. A classic moment in those first few months involved a sweet patient and a not so sweet move by me. The patient could not eat, so she received food through a tube in her stomach. We use a pump to administer the food into the patient’s stomach. One day, I set up the pump, hit the “start” button and left the room. About an hour later, I returned to check on the patient. When I entered the room, I see a chocolate milkshake-esque substance all over the floor. I had forgot to attach the tube feeding to the patient and it ran onto the floor for an hour. I laughed at my blonde moment and quickly became friends with our lovely environment service team for clean up.

“Clean up on aisle 3. Please don’t hate me. Where are the mops?”

Fast forward a few years. I like to call this story “Cat verses chest tube.”

It is time for hourly rounds. As I enter the room, I hear meowing. Depending on what floor I am working on, meowing could potentially be coming from a patient. Weirder things have happened. Anyway, the meow sound is getting louder. I start looking around the room, doing visual checks on the bedside foley bag, IV fluids, chest tube….OH LORD THE CHEST TUBE. Ladies and gentleman, there was a kitten gnawing on the patient’s chest tube like it is slathered in catnip. I don’t have time to process where this fluffy beast appeared from because I needed to focus on the patient. I picked up the kitten, inspected the chest tube for holes (none!!) and assessed the patient. Everyone was stable. Cat. Patient. Chest tube. To this day, I don’t think anyone believes this story. I wouldn’t even believe this story.

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Tis real. You’re welcome. We became quite close.

 

Nursing has taught me a lot about myself. I believe most people that are called to this profession are called because they also need healing. It is a symbiotic relationship. I heal as they heal. They heal as I heal. We journey through this madness together.

There you have it. A small glimpse into my nursing pilgrimage. There were dark times, sensational times and everything in between. I am humbled by this journey and I am anxious to continue it in a new role.

Love and Light.

*** I value and respect HIPAA. No patient information (name, location, etc) or identifiers were used in this post. Some information was changed to keep upmost privacy and anonymity.

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Putting out fires and saving lives, people!

 

 

 

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Hybrid.

Modern medicine tends to fixate on diagnosis and treatment, whereas a wellness lifestyle focuses on education, self-awareness, and prevention. Instead of merely treating disease, the wellness lifestyle addresses its causes-what lies beneath the disease and its symptoms.

-The Essential Life

In 5 short months, I will be a family nurse practitioner. My journey in medicine started a decade ago when I began volunteering at a local hospital. At the ripe age of 16, I learned about getting my hands dirty. I mean that metaphorically and literally. Seeing patients in the hospital fascinated me. During a lunch break, I ate my stale bagel and reflected on my experience.

Why did she wait so long to get a check up? Why did he give up on his health? Why doesn’t she seem to care about what is happening to her body?

My thoughts were, perhaps, non-traditional lunch break thoughts. However, I was truly curious why people waited until the brink of death to seek help. I grew up going to the doctor for annual check-ups and learning that preventative health was important. I understood that physical fitness and healthy foods were important. I have carried those core values into my professional life.

So, the question of the hour is this…can you achieve wellness by practicing both complementary and traditional medicine? Is there a market for the nurse practitioner who will prescribe:

  • increased physical exercise
  • essential oil diffusion for stress management
  • antibiotics for strep throat

The hybrid of preventative medicine, wellness, and disease management is possible. I’m just not sure how to achieve it. I see the value in both practice styles. The benefits of holistic, complementary medicine:

  • patient autonomy
  • inexpensive interventions
  • 1,000s of years of anecdotal experience
  • natural
  • less extreme side effects

Let’s play devils advocate and discuss benefits of traditional medicine:

  • societal support
  • greater amount of evidence based practice
  • variety of double-blind research studies
  • mainstream education through medical school
  • quick support/treatment of a variety of illnesses

Healthcare is broken in this country. Again, that is a post for a later time. Could a hybrid of eastern/western medicine be the answer to change our health? As Americans, we are some of the most unhealthy people in the world. Participating in a culture of prevention, rather than treatment, will augment longevity. In a perfect utopia, this is how I want to practice medicine:

55 year old patient presents to the clinic with an acute upper respiratory infection. The patient is very physically active, eats a balanced diet, and denies smoking/drinking. My plan for this patient would be to diffuse Doterra On guard+Breathe at night and prescribe traditional pharmacology (inhalers, steroids.)

Is it possible to create this crossbreed of medicine? If any incredibly rich people want to fund my research, do not hesitate to reach out 🙂

My greatest wish is to see people take care of mind, body, and spirit. Treat yourself kindly and create a body that is strong and healthy. When you do get sick, I am here for you…but take the first steps towards prevention and wellness!

Workplace Zen.

Stress lives in the workplace. Teacher, student, lawyer, nurse, car salesman, scuba instructor, grocery clerk, coal miner…everyone is connected by that blissful five letter word: STRESS. Every job elicits some type of stress response from a person. It would not be called work if it was not…well…work.

How do you cultivate gratitude and counteract feelings of stress at work?

Do you run and hide in a broom closet when sh*t hits the fan?

Do you see stressful scenarios as an opportunity for growth?

Can you bring positive energy into your space and be responsible for your own vibes?

As a nurse/future nurse practitioner, I often encounter work-related stress. Being around sick folks will do that to you. Also the whole “I literally could kill you if I made a big mistake” thought can  really get the stress juices flowing. I like to create a mini zen area at work to help juggle my responsibilities and soothe the soul in crisis.

Workplace Zen Toolbox

  • Doterra Lavender Oil
  • Doterra Clary Calm Roll on Oil
  • Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement
  • Turquoise stone
  • 5 sun salutations
  • 3 minutes of breathing techniques
  • lemon-infused water
  • get outside

Do I believe all of these items have the ability to counteract the chaos of work? NO. But I do believe they serve as a reminder to be mindful and focus on the breath. When I get stressed at work, my body goes on auto-pilot. My breathing gets rapid, my head gets foggy, my heart rate increases, and my efficiency declines. When I reference my toolbox, my brain and body have a moment to recuperate. I check in with my breathing and switch to a calmer, diaphragmatic breath. I become more mindful of my thoughts and goals. I take a moment to simply reset myself.

My job requires me to be in peak mental, physical, and spiritual shape for 12 hours at a time. This toolbox allows me to care for others, but also care for myself. I challenge you to incorporate mindfulness into your work routine. Did your stress level change? Did you become more aware of how your body reacts to issues throughout the day?

Love and light.

 

Mellow out with mindfulness.

Our society craves speed, instant gratification, and intensity. You wake up early, get dressed, hop in the car, and roll into the rat race. My (old) typical morning before a shift looks a little something like this:

  • wake up suddenly to a loud alarm at 4:30am
  • jump out of bed in a panicked and frazzled state
  • hop in the shower
  • throw on some mascara/hair in a pony tail
  • scramble to find clean scrubs
  • chow down on breakfast, normally in 2-3 minutes
  • make coffee and chug it as I’m headed out the door
  • get in the car and immediately turn on the radio
  • start/stop through traffic
  • arrive at 6am
  • rush to my unit and throw my bag down
  • get report

Ok. Whoa. I’m stressed just reading that and reflecting back on how I used to greet the day. It felt more like a fall into the chaos of the day, rather than gently greet it. I’m assuming a lot of you wake up with a similar routine. Rush, rush, rush. It creates a hectic energy and starts the day with a heavy mind.

I read a book on mindfulness. It was a 10 week course that teaches you how to incorporate a mindful practice in every part of life. It was a process, but I started to integrate the strategies into my daily routine. This is what my morning looks like now:

  • wake up to a waterfall themed alarm at 4:15 am
  • take 3 deep belly breaths before I sit up
  • feel my feet hit the floor and embrace the blessing of waking up
  • take a hot shower, feeling the water trickle down my skin
  • use dim light to finish getting dressed
  • make a cup of loose leaf tea and breakfast, enjoying the taste of each bite for 15 minutes
    • I’ve made my breakfast a meditative experience
  • sit for 5 minutes, setting my intention for the day
  • 10 sun salutations to bring heat and energy into my body
  • walk to the car and drive to work
  • listen to an insightful/funny podcast to learn something on my commute
  • arrive at work
  • use aromatherapy (peppermint oil) to energize and a short meditation to clear the mind before the shift

You have 24 hours in a day. You choose to make them chaotic or calm. Things will happen that shift your experience, but YOU control how you feel.

Slow down. Be mindful. Be present. Do all things with love. IMG_8249

I Don’t Have Time To Panic. I’m Busy.

I had my first panic attack in 2011. I was in nursing school at Emory University, a place where anxiety is cultivated. I was taking a pharmacology exam in a large lecture hall when all of a sudden my whole body started to tingle. I looked down at my hands and they looked foreign. I broke into a sweat and my vision became blurry. My heart was pounding so hard that I was convinced the professor could hear it from 15 feet away. I circled random answers on the exam and got out of there as quickly as possible. Congratulations, Sara! You have earned yourself a panic attack! Welcome to the lonely club of high-achieving, anxious, perfectionists!

I immediately pulled myself together, put on some yoga pants, and trotted over to the student health center. As the astute nursing student I was, I calmly informed the nurse that I was dying and needed a chest x-ray to rule out a thoracic aneurysm. That’s logical, right? Welp.

A panic attack can often sneak up after years of chronic stress and a lack of proper self-care. Many people go to the emergency room after the first attack because it can mimic a heart attack. After a month of similar experiences, the student health center nurse told me that I was suffering from panic attacks. I was a 4.0 student at a prestigious university with a budding social life and perfect life! I was not having panic attacks! I did not have time to fit panicking into my schedule! I was not even stressed! Right? Oh, wait. I get it now.

I believe a panic attack is our body’s way of saying, “Hey you…slow down and listen to me. I need you to breathe. I need you to relax. I need you to sit the eff down and watch Netflix.” After about 5 years of this journey, I am finally learning to listen to my body and chip away the chokehold of perfection.

dream-beautiful-bomb-brain-Favim.com-773379My brain was churning out gunk left and right during my first panic attack. The thoughts “I’m dying”, “I’m going crazy” were quite loud in my chaotic hippocampus.