Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The messy truth of this ICU nurse...

When I first started working at the VA as a student nurse I remember feeling incredibly intimidated by the patient population. All male.... and all men who had served in the military. For those of you who have read my blog before you probably know that I'm pretty open about my life... my past and all of the struggles I have had to overcome in order to be who I am today. I've written posts before about my family history. I grew up with an abusive father and a mother who was emotionally abusive herself. I've had my fair share of abusive relationships... I'm no stranger to emotionally manipulative and (unfortunately) physically abusive men.

Well, this is where it gets messy friends. When I took the job as an ICU nurse in a veteran's hospital I knew I would continue to grow as a person because the patients I would be taking care of were the exact patients I was incredibly uncomfortable around. They reminded me of all the men in my life who had either taken advantage of me or abused me in one way or another. Learning to have boundaries and learning to set limits... learning to stand up for myself and learning to see these men not as a threat but as very sick people in need of good nursing care.... well it has been a challenge to say the least.

It has taken some serious introspection and a lot of prayer and a lot of conscious effort to become a whole and healed person... a woman who was able to face her worst nightmare and on top of that to have compassion in the midst of that as well.

Most of the time I look at how far I have come and I am so thankful for the progress I have made. The mere fact that I am actively living a healthy lifestyle without being self destructive is proof in and of itself. Still, there are some days where my past and those deep rooted fears sneak up on me. They pop up as a reminder that there is still much healing to be done and that the journey... well, the journey is far from over.

Today was one of those days. I had a patient who was demeaning, anxious and provoking. A patient who questioned me and my abilities as a nurse. He had his own history with drug use which doesn't make things easy when you are in the hospital for a 3 vessel coronary artery bypass graft surgery. At one point during the shift he became angry and demanded that I bring in a "second opinion" about his elevated blood pressures... apparently I was "stupid" and didn't know what I was doing.

After he spoke to my charge nurse and calmed down I went back into the room and he says,
 "You know why my blood pressures are elevated?"

"Why is that?" I said curtly... still frustrated by our recent interaction.

"I'm just not used to having such cute nurses!" he looks at me with a smirk on his face.

Instantly I felt my chest tighten.... I was livid. I ignored his comment... asked if he had anything else he needed from me and when he shook his head "no" I immediately left the room. I could feel my hands trembling I was so angry. I went straight to the charge nurse station and began my rant,

"I can not believe that guy! You tell me I'm stupid, you're rude and disrespectful... but oh... it's ok... it'll all go away if you tell me I'm cute. I guess I'm supposed to just smile and bow down to you cause you think I'm pretty and you're flattering me..... it's ok if you treat me like crap because you can just tell me I'm pretty and it'll all be okay! Oh no you don't. I'm not fallin' for that crap!"

At this point my co-workers know me... they know about my scrappy self and my feisty side so they just laugh it off and acknowledge that he was out of line. I on the other hand.... I was stewing for the next 2 hours. It wasn't until I went on my break that I was able to sit back and realize.... something else was going on here... something much bigger than dealing with a meth-addicted, anxiety ridden patient. My own fears... my own hurts and past wounds had just been ungraciously and brutally opened. A part of Andi that still needs some serious healing had been provoked and it wasn't pretty... in fact it was messy and painful, and if I'm being completely honest it was not fun to deal with.

For me... this is one of those moments where the ugly cry is just around the corner and if you aren't careful... any. little. thing. could set it loose. Luckily, I held it together and didn't break out into uncontrollable sobs... but I still don't have the answer to this one friends. I know I have come leaps and bounds from the damaged person I once was but I also know that there is a long journey ahead... one with steep mountains to climb and bends that have an unforeseen terrain ahead.... but one thing I do know is that I'm moving forward... one. step. at a time.


  1. Big hug. Sometimes people are jerks. When I get alcoholics in my chair, I have such a hard time not placing my dad over top of them and treating them as if I would him. Not pretty, not nice. We're all human and we're doing the best we can. You too.

  2. I commend you for accepting not only a difficult area of nursing but also a difficult area because of your past. Kuddos x2! :) Rockstar effort! As for what happened that you had written about, Andy, I wish it didn't happen, but just like the above commenter had said "sometimes people are jerks" and it's not you, but THEM. Big hug to you from me as well. :) I can't imagine how hard it must be to deal with adult attitudes!

  3. It takes a lot of inner strength to write about such an experience. Full of integrity and beautifully expressed. Good luck on your race, it's an incredible moment. Finish strong!