Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is a Nurse's Work Ever Done?

From the moment I entered nursing school, people have turned to me for medical advice. Even as a novice with an armful of textbooks and more questions than answers, the requests for opinions began during school and have never ceased to flow. There's some old adage that every family needs a nurse. Why not a doctor? A lawyer? A plumber? I guess nurses just have that certain je ne sais quoi.

My step-dad is fighting pancreatic cancer right now, and with the long journey through testing, diagnosis, radiation and now chemotherapy, I am the go-to person for most of their questions, although my scientist brother (bless his heart) uses his substantial cerebral prowess to see us through as well.

Unfortunately, my mother now has early invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the face, and my job these past few weeks has been researching, reading, and extrapolating the information needed for her to make some informed choices. Her surgery is pending for this Friday morning, and I will thankfully be able to make the five hour trip to be there.

This evening, a friend called from a nearby city. After being sent home from the ER not once but twice, he was finally admitted two days ago with acute appendicitis after being misdiagnosed and sent home to suffer over a nine day period. Needless to say, he is on ice chips and IV fluids, awaiting the decision whether surgery will be sooner or later. I hope it's sooner. Meanwhile, he asked me to be his Health Care Proxy. I accepted without hesitation.

My blogging practice has elicited many questions to be posed to me via email over the last two years by perfect strangers, something I truly enjoy responding to. Today I received an inquiry about my position on 12-step programs. I hope my answer was sufficiently enlightening, or perhaps enlighteningly sufficient. I also recently received an email requesting my participation in an on-line survey by a Croatian university about healthcare bloggers, as well as an invitation to submit articles to NurseLinkup, a new online networking community for nurses.

Working in the healthcare field and teaching nursing for a while, I have written letters of recommendation for nursing school and job applicants, as well as agreeing to serve as a reference on various person's resumes. I have precepted nursing students, medical students, and medical residents, dragging them through the city on my rounds. I have also counseled friends interested in nursing school, edited papers for those friends, and assisted in their learning processes on some level or another, subsequently serving as career counselor (and reference) after graduation.

When I get home, I blog about nursing, answer emails, think about my patients, field family calls, and even read books and articles about nursing and medicine. I interact with other nurse bloggers on-line, co-facilitate a discussion group for nurses on Zaadz.com, and contribute regularly to on-line medical and nursing blog carnivals.

Yes, being a nurse is more than a vocation for me---it is truly an identity. Is this healthy? Is it too all-consuming? Am "I" lost amidst the general tumult? Beats me---I'm too busy being a nurse.
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