Monday, November 21, 2011

Making a difference

I have chatted with some fellow nurses recently. Many of them talked about feeling disillusioned with the nursing profession, that maybe they chose the wrong field. I truly think a lot of us picked this career because we honestly wanted to make a difference in someone's life. But being in the health care field, it's really easy to feel underappreciated for all that you do. And while attending a "Code Brown," it's even easier to feel like we aren't getting paid nearly enough. I have always thought of nurses as the ones who "humanize" health care in a way. We aren't supposed to treat them like a diagnosis or just a "patient." But it is all too easy to start seeing them as "Room 35, bed 2" or "the chemoembolization case going in 1." And truthfully, how often does anyone thank you when you have done your job well? Probably not often enough. And that got me thinking...

I was sitting up late last night on the couch with Avery, trying to coax her to sleep {with a boob as bait of course}. [And "late" for me in this case is 10 PM. And shut up, I know I am lame.] I was thinking of how I need to make our Christmas photo cards in the next week and get them ordered. We will be sending them to the usual family and friends, but this year I am also adding people I didn't think of last year: all the people who made a huge impact in our lives. Like Dr. Berg -my OB- who supported my decision to have a VBAC and delivered Avery. And the NICU staff that was like family for the month of May. And even Bailey's plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Miller. Without him our little girl wouldn't have the smile we love today. And she definitely wouldn't be able to pig out {and still beg for "more"} on all the foods she loves without his expertise and the surgeries he performed.  These people were just doing their jobs, but it was so much more than that. They changed our lives for the better.

When I think of humanizing health care and making a difference, I think of Dr. Ann Anderson. She is a neonatologist in the NICU at The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. She was Avery's main doctor throughout most of her three week stay. From the beginning she struck me as a good person. Not just an experienced MD. Not just as a pleasant person you can talk to. I could feel that deep down she had a kind soul. Not knowing what is wrong when your child is sick is a scary, scary thing. After two days, we still weren't sure what had caused her bilirubin to reach such epic levels. While some other doctors and neonatal nurse practitioners would try to just give me snippets of only good news, Dr. Anderson didn't beat around the bush with me. She could tell I wanted the truth and I wanted the full picture - good or bad. I ran into her in a hallway and said I wanted to know what she feared the brain MRI could show. And while she explained how bilirubin could cause brain damage and that it was a real possibility for Avery, I began to cry helpless, fearful tears. She gave me the information I needed to hear and then when she was finished, she grabbed me into a hug. She cried along with me, right there in the hallway. And as we cried she told me,
"This is how much I care about your daughter. We will do everything possible to help her."

Wow.

I had never felt such warmth and love from a virtual stranger. And at the moment I needed it most.

I am betting some people might think that if a doctor shows emotion like that, she is weak. Or they might respect her a bit less for not being able to "hold it together."  I feel the exact opposite is true. Seeing her care so deeply for my child - almost like she was her own, put some of my fears to rest. I knew that Avery would get the best care possible. I knew she cared. That made all the difference. I respect her so much. That moment in the hallway made it clear that she is in medicine for the right reason. Not for the prestige. Not for the salary. She is a doctor so she could help a sick little baby girl and her scared mama.

So this Christmas season, I plan to thank those people who made a difference to us. People who were just doing their jobs like they always do, but did it well. I want them to know: We noticed. So while nursing sometimes leaves me feeling drained and underappreciated, I will keep trying to do my job as well as I can. Who knows - one day I might be that person who makes a big difference in the life of someone else. Afterall, that's why I became a nurse in the first place.

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