Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Wall of Need and Shared Humanity

Following a snow-day on Monday which elongated the weekend into a luxurious three days, I was hit straight on today by a wall of need which simply plowed down everything in its path. Like a fly waiting for a windshield on the freeway (a nod to Peter Gabriel for that imagery), I was like a sitting duck as the calls came pouring in throughout the day. Narcotic prescriptions, sick calls, complaints, missed appointments, more sick calls, prescriptions, transportation problems, more missed appointments, electrciity cut off for non-payment, even more narcotics---the day wore on uncomfortably, like wearing a suit that's too tight.

Towards the end of the day, I realized that my days of being responsible for all of these patients and their care are coming to a close. With just three days of full-time employment remaining, this is essentially my "field goal" for the week (note the highly rare sports metaphor). I kept saying to myself: "This is my final Tuesday. This is my final Tuesday." Waves of relief were juxtaposed with alternate (albeit smaller) waves of grief and/or loss.

One patient and I came to some semblance of closure on the phone this afternoon, although since she is the one person who I have actually given my phone number to, the closure had to do with our professional relationship rather than our new friendship. Our boundaries are clear, and I have no doubt that she would never abuse her personal access to me.

Conversely, other patients seem to be extending their needy tentacles towards me as I attempt to extricate myself, and I give non-committal answers when they ask me to "keep in touch", and I generally respond by saying that I'll hopefully see them around the clinic from time to time.

Sitting at the computer in the doctors' area, I print out narcotic prescription after narcotic presciption, and I give thanks that these days will soon come to pass. This narcotic merry-go-round of which I have so recently written really seems to often put me over the proverbial edge. And with 5:00 pm Friday on the not-so-distant horizon, I feel excited at the prospect of so many odious and redundant tasks falling by the wayside.

Still, the human side of nursing is the sweetest, and the blessings and compassion which I receive from the majority of patients warms my heart and lightens my soul. When I choose to share with certain patients that I have been struggling with chronic stress-related illness and pain, the compassion that I feel reflected back to me means more than I can ever communicate in return. Shared humanity is truly the beautiful core of a healthy therapeutic relationship, and I am moved that that beauty is reflected in the eyes of many patients as I bid a heartfelt adieu.
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