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,
do you think he could grab one of the slippery buggers as they,
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
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)
I saw the roundness of her lips,
heard the whisper of words brushing past my ears.
They fall knee-deep on my sidewalk . . .
But words are slippery things,
they slide by memories of Jake,
ice rink picnics, grocery lists,
and songs . . .
Stirring foreign air with
sounds raining cold
But words were few.
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.