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MY WISH FOR you is that this life becomes all that you want it to... As the song blared from my clock radio at 5 a.m., the thought of dragging myself out of bed to get ready for another long day at work was enough to make me want to call out sick. Maybe I was coming down with something? I did feel a little warm. No, not really. I was going to have to get up and go to work.
Being an OR nurse is something I usually enjoy-but not on that day. I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before: the kids were fussing, the dog was sick, and we got a prank phone call at 2 a.m. I was tired, cranky, and about to be late. What a way to start the day.
When I arrived at the hospital, my first patient was a 7-year-old boy scheduled for a tonsillectomy. His big brown eyes were filled with worry and he kept a tight grip on his father's hand. I introduced myself and explained what was going to happen, assuring him there'd be no unpleasant surprises. I told him that one of his parents could accompany him to the OR and stay with him until he was asleep. As I talked with him, I saw the tension, fear, and uncertainty leave his face.
After the anesthesia did its job, I walked his mother out of the OR. As she dried her tears, I explained it's often more difficult for parents to see their child put under anesthesia than it is for the child. She turned, hugged me, and thanked me for making a difficult time more manageable.
My second patient was to be a 40-year-old woman undergoing a hysterectomy. But as I helped the team prepare the OR, the charge nurse came in and told us the surgery had been cancelled. Several minutes later, after we'd put most of the instruments and supplies away, she came back and said the surgery was back on. Once again, we collected the supplies and equipment. A few minutes later, when the charge nurse stuck her head in the room for a third time, we knew we didn't want to hear what she had to say. The procedure was now on hold-the patient couldn't decide if she wanted to have the surgery. I decided to go to the pre-op area and meet my potential patient.
I introduced myself, explaining who I was and what my role would be during her surgery. She didn't appear unreasonable, overemotional, or in the throes of turmoil. As we talked for a few minutes about her indecision, she admitted to being nervous because a friend's father had recently died during surgery-something she hadn't revealed to anyone else.
By this time, the surgeon and anesthetist had arrived. They advised her of the procedure's potential risks and benefits, going into more detail and answering previously unasked questions. When they finished, she announced that she felt safe with us. She said she knew we'd take good care of her and nothing bad was going to happen. She signed her surgical consent form and we took her to the OR. As she was drifting off into an anesthetized state, she took my hand, looked me in the eyes, and said, "Thank you."
When lunchtime came around, I grabbed a quick bite of whatever I could find in the staff lounge-a few broken crackers and some peanut butter scraped off the bottom of the jar. After a few bites, I heard my team being paged stat back to the OR.
I arrived to a flurry of activity as all unassigned personnel were setting up for an emergency patient with a dissecting aortic aneurysm coming in from the ED. The door flew open and in rushed assorted personnel from the ED and OR pushing a patient on a stretcher. As we transferred the patient to the OR table, I saw fear in his eyes. We offered him encouragement and support as he was anesthetized, knowing we might be the last faces he ever saw.
Like performers in a well-choreographed dance, the physicians, nurses, technicians, and support staff all worked harmoniously toward the same goal: saving a life. After several hours of grueling work, the patient's condition stabilized. As we transported him to the ICU, the surgeon spoke to the team. "If it hadn't been for your hard work, knowledge, skill, and teamwork, this man would've died. Thank you for helping save his life."
At the end of my shift, I reflected back on my day. I'd reassured and calmed a little boy and his parents. I'd helped a woman get to the root of her anxiety and overcome it. And most remarkably, I'd helped save a man's life. Not every day is as dramatic as this one, but days like this remind me why I became a nurse.
For me, being a nurse isn't what I do, it's who I am. Days like this make me grateful I've chosen this profession-or, more accurately, that this profession has chosen me. Days like this make the struggle of getting out of bed long before the sun comes up worthwhile.
Days like this make me glad I'm scheduled to work again tomorrow, and I realize that my life has become all that I'd ever wished for.
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Malignant Melanoma: Advances in Treatment
Journal of the Dermatology Nurses' Association, May/June 2014
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