18 months ago I was a quivering mass of uncertainty when, during my first course in nursing school, I struggled to hear heart sounds through a stethoscope. I knew I wanted to be a nurse more than I had ever wanted anything before, but I couldn't imagine ever feeling confident actually caring for clients in the hospital. There was so much I didn't know. Furthermore, I had always earned a living working with my brain, and nursing demands that you develop some psychomotor skills. Nurses lift, inject, and hang IV fluids. Nurses use objects to help people heal. I'm not an object person.
Three weeks ago I was in the middle of my psychiatric clinical rotation. I loved it. LOVED it. Give me someone who is in mental crisis and I'm not only fascinated, I'm drawn to that person like a bee to honey. I may not "have" the mental illness the client is suffering from, but having spent a good portion of my life living on the dark side, it isn't hard for me to imagine being the client's shoes. My mind was working overtime during those clinical hours. I understood. I empathized. I felt completely, utterly, gloriously at home in a psychiatric hospital behind its locked doors. So, it was decided: I'm a psychiatric nurse.
Yesterday was my first day of clinical rotation for my Adult Nursing II class. I was assigned to a cardiac care unit in an acute care hospital, and I was very nervous. Back to the object stuff: administering medications, assessing incision sites for clients who have undergone open heart surgery, measuring output of urine and drainage from chest tubes, taking vital signs. A new hospital, a new group of procedures to learn. New electronic medical record software to navigate. Yesterday I felt like an idiot (again). Then I met my client. No dark side there, just someone recovering from a cardiac surgery. Developing rapport was easy. I'm very good at that - that's a mind thing, not an object thing.
Tonight I left the hospital grinning from ear to ear. That same client is making huge strides and recovering beautifully. There can be a deep human intimacy between a student nurse and a client. We see them naked, we see them helpless, we encourage, we teach, we celebrate bowel movements, we administer medication to help ease pain, we comfort them and their families. When they walk the halls and return to their rooms having walked a little farther this time and are less short of breath than they were the last time, it can feel like their success is our success. That feeling is like a swelling round of silent applause for their efforts, the surgeon's efforts, and the unbelievable resiliency, complexity and self-healing capacity of the human body. Today I loved, loved LOVED my Adult Nursing II clinical rotation.
The fact is, I love it all (except pediatrics). And today, I'm not so sure I'm a psychiatric nurse. I think I'll wait and see where the universe wants me to work. Wherever that is, I suspect I'm going to love it.