My nurse manager pulled me aside today. She, my preceptor, clinical course coordinator, and senior clinical nurse, were all concerned about me. Apparently they’re worried that I’m getting overwhelmed in the PICU (Pediatric ICU). Maybe I am. Or was. But this was expected. I saw this coming. But that doesn’t make it any easier. I just didn’t realize how hard that blow was going to be.
I’m in nursing for different reasons. The main reason is because nothing else makes sense for me. I am called to do this, and I am good at it. I’m incredibly blessed that I am passionate about something that I feel like is the reason I exist. Does that make sense?
In any case, I’ve always known I would end up in Pediatrics. I’m a kid at heart. My friends would ask me what I did over the weekend, and I say, “I went to a birthday party. My friend Joey, she turned 5.” I hang out with 5 year olds. Voluntarily. For free. Yeah, I’m that girl. The point is, I think kids are awesome. They are the genuine, and resilient, and pure. Some are brats, some are too much to handle. But there’s something about that innocence, the willingness to believe, to hope, to love. That’s why I’m in Peds.
So seeing these amazing tiny humans suffer? It’s definitely hard for me. The images haunt me. Traches, intubation, mechanical ventilation, drips. There are paralyzed kids who look lifeless but are still breathing, the heartbreaking silent sobs of the parents, the family’s prayers… It’s not easy. It’s not always rainbows and magic. It’s rarely that, actually. It’s a lot to process. And when people ask me how I deal with it, my answer is simple. I don’t. And I think that’s the problem.
I don’t like talking about how I feel. Writing, yes. That’s something I’ve always done. But I don’t like venting on other people. I don’t like dumping my problems and whining about my life. Which is complete BS because I love it when people do that to me. I feel honored and privileged that they choose to share that with me. But I don’t share anything with anyone. But that’s another story.
I’m starting to realize that this is not going to work for me if I want to stay in the PICU. I need to talk about things. These aren’t things that I can just shake off. You don’t simply walk away from the PICU, leaving the work behind. You carry that with you. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t ignore that. Yes, at work I’m fine. We are so focused on keeping these children alive that nothing else matters. You want that heart rate to be at greater than 60. You want that oxygen level at least 93%. Every beep, you run inside the room. That’s what happens. We don’t have time to let the sadness of each story get to us. Because then no one will take care of these amazing kids. We’d all fall apart. So we keep those emotions at bay. We feel them. Oh, heaven knows we do. But we have to push them aside or at least forget about them until the end of our 12 hour shift.
I’ve talked to nurses about this and they’re all saying the same thing. These are nurses who are young, (in their 20’s), fun, patient, bubbly, and just good people to hang around. But when they get home from work, they’re complete b…uhh brats. Some say they get whiny. Some just shut the world off and be cold to everyone. But they’re not like that. That’s just the stress of work all coming out. I guess for me, I’m going to be the depressing one.
I need to reflect on these situations. It is sad to see a 15 month old not live his life. Or a 7 month old who was healthy before a procedure, but today has coded 3 times and the doctors don’t know why. Or a 2 year old who has asthma exacerbation. Not so bad right? Until you realize she has triplet sisters. 2 of which are in the PICU, not breathing on their own, and the other one still in the ER. These are horrible cases. It makes you question your belief in God and his omnipotence, omnibenevolence, and omniscience. It makes you question a lot of things. And your heart breaks for these kids and their families. And it can get overwhelming.
AND THAT’S OK.
It’s ok to get overwhelmed. It’s perfectly acceptable for someone to feel normal human emotions. To feel sympathy, or even empathy. To feel compassion. It’s ok to be sad about it. To cry about it. If that’s the way to cope, then so be it.
I knew this job was going to be very demanding. It challenges my physical abilities, my critical thinking, clinical reasoning, teamwork skills, and many other things. But it’s also taking a toll on my emotional stability. But this is not going to change anything. I feel called to be here, to help these kids. I was put here for a reason, and I will do everything I can to help these families. This jobs requires for me to be someone stronger. And I will be. Maybe not now, or next week, or next month. But I will be, someday.