Thursday, November 13, 2008


This certainly has been a very craptastic week, to say the least.

I love the ER. I love working in a chaotic, bloody, life-or-death trauma. It gets me going, it makes me focus and still see the big picture, it makes me a little giddy when I know something big is coming in. Blood, guts, and name it, I like it.

I never really stop to think about the people behind those traumas, though. I see their families just outside the curtains, and when the patients don't make it I do feel that loss inside. It's even worse when the patients are kids. But I'm always able to push it away and focus on the job at hand.

Then I get the news yesterday that one of my favorite teachers from high school was in a bad car accident. T-boned by a truck, flown to Shock Trauma, massive injuries, critical condition. And it got me thinking.

I have never truly stopped to think about how a great day for me in the ER is a devastating day for someone else. When I have the super exciting code to work on, someone else is losing a father, a husband, a son. When I have the ATV accident with brains spattered from here to Minnesota, someone else is losing a child, a new spouse, a brand new daddy. When I have the senior weeker who fell off the building, someone else gets the call that their daughter isn't going to make it.

I have never felt more guilty for loving what I do, and the career I will have in 5 short weeks. I hate that it took this beloved teacher getting into a car accident she most likely isn't going to survive to make me reflect on this. I hate that I can feel so guilty about loving traumas, and still look forward to going into work tomorrow.

Does this make me heartless?


Killjoie said...

It doesn't make you heartless. It makes you human- you just started a new job in the career you love. Giddy happens. Life happens. By the very nature of the job, we make money because people feel miserable.

It's not wrong to feel that adrenaline rush of "What is coming next?" and it's not wrong to love your job with every fiber of your being. Something tells me you're not coming out, chest bumping the family, and saying "We couldn't save 'em, but I did get to see them do a wicked cool bedside trach/holding the dude's heart in his bare hands, man!" So, I think you're probably safe...

Not Nurse Ratched said...

You have to have your attitude, because if you don't you end up like me---lying awake thinking, "What are those parents going to do? How will they cope with this?..." If you think about that stuff while you're treating the patient the care suffers. I've gone off the ER a bit because of this phenomenon you describe; I love the ER for the interesting stuff and adrenaline, but I might want to work in an area where there's a better chance my patients will walk out.

indya said...

Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about but I think that if you love your job you'll do it better because of that. I don't think it makes you heartless- you can't take the burden of those tragedies upon your shoulders and expect to function well as a human being, never mind as a nurse. In my opinion, those patients that need emergency care need just that- at that moment it doesn't necessarily matter to them or their families whether you can see the 'people behind those traumas', what matters is the job at hand because they ARE the job at hand, do I make sense?

P.S. I just recently found your blog- I'm also a nursing student with a love for Jesus and definately an interest in emergency nursing, so I'm enjoying readin about your experiences. I like your sarcasm too :-)

undergrad RN said...

Don't feel guilty. You do important stuff, and it's important that you're passionate about it.

Look at it this way: I wouldn't want someone who hates saving lives working on my Dad. You're damn right I want someone who loves what they do!

keepbreathing said...

It doesn't make you heartless, it makes you normal. It's good to remember the human aspect of the job, to know that behind every fun code or trauma there is a family and a story and a life. But if you focus on it and let it get to you, you'll be unable to do your job. Remember the humanity, but don't let it paralyze you.

Nick and Kaley said...

I know a bunch of people have already said this, but if you didn't love doing what you do, then there would be no one in the ER to save lives. You are not heartless.
Hang in there friend! Call me if you need to!

Crazed Mom said...

It doesn't make you heartless. There needs to be a professional distance or you'll burn out.

Now speaking as the mother of an interesting case, don't forget you are treating humans and their relatives are scared to death. My son turned out to have a mitochondrial metabolic disease and died(at home) when he was 10 months old. I truly appreicated the nurses who took 30 secinds to ask how I was or who took the extra time to care for my son.

Now speaking as a nursing student-I can see both sides. I honestly think if you treat all with dignity you're a great nurse, now you just have a slightly broader picture.

shrtstormtrooper said...

thank you for the encouragement, I appreciate it!