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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nursing journal

Student nurses often think that it is only a mandated 'student' thing to journal their nursing experiences; that journals are simply something to be endured through their student years. They might be surprised at how many nurses journal to reflect on practice, to make meaning out of complexity and suffering, and to honor moments of precious engagement with persons, and learning from patients. I found directive journaling a chore, when I was a student, but free journaling very helpful--although I'm sure I drove some of my instructors crazy if they weren't into poetry and drama! I'd like to share some of my early journal work here, partly as a way of affirming to student nurses that it is a good thing to reflect from your soul, heart, and intellect, as it helps to keep you authentic and forms who you will be as a nurse. And, ultimately, I would like to share these to honor my patients who taught me so many life lessons about caring, being a care giver, and becoming a person. 


Words are like fish, he told me  (Geriatric Assessment Unit, Vancouver)
 
Words are like fish, he told me.
Some days he sat on the bank all day, patient,
casting perfect arcs of wind-drift sound over baby blue water and not one bite.
Some days fish swarmed up and over the sides of his craft and,
damn-it-all-to-hell,
do you think he could grab one of the slippery buggers as they,
nose-to-tail,
sailed on by?
Hey, he told me, eyes bright with sudden knowing,
words are like fish--slick as paint,
they'll slide right past you,
but catch 'em when you can, 'cause, in spite of the bones,
there's nothing like a mouthful.



Bathing Mrs. F. (Geriatric Assessment Unit, Vancouver)
 
"Combative," reads her chart,
and I picture guerrilla tactics,
camouflage fatigues, and
jungle helmets.
Instead, a war torn lady
dressed in bones,
grey skin taut, wails a lament as her hair is washed.
I hold her hands--not as friend, but, enemy guard--
"I'll whomp you!" she screeches to the one who holds the soap.
But, later, when, unseen,
I wrap a clean blanket about her,
I hear hymns soft as summer,
lilac petals falling from her memory.


She spoke.  (Geriatric Assessment Unit, Vancouver)

 
--patient one--
 
She spoke.
I saw the roundness of her lips,
so quick,
heard the whisper of words brushing past my ears.
They fall knee-deep on my sidewalk . . .
 
--patient two--
 
She spoke.
But words are slippery things,
they slide by memories of Jake,
ice rink picnics, grocery lists,
and songs . . .
 
--they said--
 
She spoke.
Stirring foreign air with
sounds raining cold
on-and-on-and-on-and-on
she spoke.
But words were few.
 
--I said--
 
I spoke.
Dropping vowels into a
soundless well.  Strewing words as husks.  I watch, appalled.
Like frost edged paths they lie,
half buried in yesterdays.



When I am old
 
When I am old:
as old as tea leaves, crumbling,
apt to stain carpets, and with the odor of yesterday's lunch,
touch me softly to remind me
that once I was you:
full-bodied, rich in spice and long in life, and that others
drank deeply of me.
 
When I am old:
as old as Pogo Sticks, hula hoops, and Etch-a-Sketch,
laugh often with me, to remind me that once I played, too:
that life was green and curious, that MGM lions roared deliciously,
and that stars were angels' eyes.
When I am old:
as old as Moon Walks,
Kennedy Conspiracy, and Watergate, speak sense to me to remind me that once I cried for Rwanda's children, spoke out for trees and Orca, and marched for justice in your world.
 
When I am old, I think I shall want three things:
still to wonder, still to feel, and still to touch the edge of life
with my tongue.  But, when I am too old for these three, please,
touch me softly, to remind me, that once I was you.


 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Returning to roots

Well it is about time I updated this and bumped off that New Year's Countdown Clock! That clock was beginning to be rather alarming--just kept on ticking, reminding me that the new year is rolling on and not-so-new anymore ... 


 Happy Valentine's Day!



These last few weeks, I've caught myself reminiscing about my first years in nursing. I wondered about how I'd changed, grown, hardened, or if I had simply distanced from who I was as a nurse in those oh-so-formative years of nursing education and first practice. I actually saved my journal from my first semester in nursing school, so it was relatively easy for me to walk back into those moments. All those emotions were there: pride at being a student nurse, shock and mild horror at the tangible reality of illness and overwhelming need, stress and internal angst at whether I really was 'a nurse.' I also recalled the embarrassment at my shiny, too-new uniform (I wanted those faded green 'regulation' OR scrubs). But I LOVED my new stethoscope!

Like most of us, my first clinical rotations were in long term care and sub acute geriatric units. Like most students, I only vaguely recognized the complexity of gerontology nursing and the expertise of gerontology nursing as a specialty. Most of us were happy to leave behind the routine manual labor of morning care, feed assists and the bewildering mood-shifts of dementia. We were students drenched in the drama of the TV drawn ER, yearning for codes, detective diagnosing, and longing to be a part of the critical care team.

Yet, as I flip through the pages of my journal, I see moments of engagement with residents and patients; word pictures of encounters and wrestling with the complexity of patient-nurse dynamics. But more than that, I see learning about who I was and who I wanted to become--not only as nurse, but as person. Visiting myself as a student nurse, I not only reconnected with those first patient encounters, but saw how I have, in many ways, returned to those same complexities, albeit now at a different level of learning, with new skill sets and more experienced eyes.These were questions of meaning and connection; of 'self' and 'other.'

I continue to question, to want to know more about who I am and who I am becoming--both as a nurse, and as a person. In the spiraling circle of my career and growth as a nurse, through my dissertation work, I was able to go back to those early roots, to return to gerontology nursing. How nice to somehow give back to those residents, patients, nurses who so engaged me early on in my journey.

Over the next couple of blogs, I want to share some early 'nurse' poetry I wrote as a student nurse and into my first year of practice. I hope that you can join with me on your own little excursion of returning to the roots of your nursing journey. If you are just starting out as a student nurse, I hope that I can offer you reassurance that your questionings are worthwhile and that your caring engagement will grow you up in the right direction. Bon Voyage!