Memoir of My Nursing Career
I worked in skilled nursing for many years between one place or another. I graduated with my Practical Nursing diploma in 1981. I got my first job at an older hospital where within a year I took the charge position for the second shift skilled unit. Almost everyone on that unit was terminal with cancer or aging and needing special care.
I had no difficulty with death and dying. I think maybe because I’m a spiritual person, I’m not sure. I do remember that it became clear during training that pediatric and obstetrics didn’t suit me. Dying children and sick babies tore at my heart. Though not frequent, children in a general hospital do die and infants are born ill.
In October of 1982 I received a call from the hospital telling me not to come into work. They were shutting the doors and transferring all patients to other facilities. It turned out there was some sort of mismanagement. Out of about 50 LPNs put out of work that day, I had the least seniority. I spent weeks on unemployment before a position came available that wasn’t taken by someone with more experience.
I’d worked for the state facility caring for developmentally disabled persons as a direct care staff person. I applied to the State Development Center and received a job in their hospital. I really enjoyed both the skilled care at the general hospital and the state facility. The patients never bothered me, the administration often got on my nerves but I wasn’t alone in that.
I think we had two or three patients in the state facility with tracheostomies. and gastric tubes. Gastric tubes required feeding through a catheter or tube, directly into the stomach using a formula like Ensure. Tracheostomy, as many of you know, is a breathing tube through the neck into the trachea to allow breathing when normal breathing is a problem with chocking. In most of our cases that I worked with they needed traches because of saliva.
Eventually, the number of tube feedings and tracheostomies grew to enough to start a wing with only those patients. When that happened, I took a third shift or the 11 pm to 7 am position on what we called the Trach and Tube floor. I’ve worked in other facilities taking care of similar kinds of clients or residents as they are more accurately referred to now. It never slipped my mind that every one of them had a human soul and right to live to their optimum level.
However, there are times now that my own health is fragile that I don’t feel I’m doing all I should. I understand how the residents of the nursing homes feel when they’re forgotten or treated badly because of attitudes that don’t see us as deserving as they are. It takes a long time to come to terms with the fact that I can’t cook, or do a lot of cleaning, go outside in any weather, or even walk around my home without oxygen. I understand the fear of catching a bug from someone else and thus avoid crowds.
I don’t need sympathy any more than they did or wanted it. I just want respect and a little attention. My husband is my rock. My children are busy but loving and I have 10 grandchildren to make me smile when they’re around. I write and vlog. I’m doing my best to live to my best possible self, under the circumstances.