Back during the first couple years of my career, one of the most common summer injuries was of pedestrians struck by vehicles. Living by a resort town always saw some high school or college kid on vacation who thought they could run across the street before that next vehicle got to the intersection. For the record, the car wins every time. Always.
After time of death was announced on one of these kids, most everyone
cleared out of the room. I had looked at the massive skull fractures on
the CT scout image, and wanted to see for myself what that correlated
to in a real person. So I walked up to the head of the bed and carefully
stuck my finger into the gaping wound on this kids' scalp. The doctor
walked over while I was doing this and pointed out smaller details that I
hadn't yet noticed - how neatly the scalp separates from the skull, how
jagged some edges can be while others are the cleanest of breaks. She
walked out of the room, and I was left there with my finger still poking
into the skull of a dead 17 year old.
I remember being so
thrilled with the action of the trauma team, the organized chaos, the
medical knowledge versus the brute force to deal with orthopedic trauma.
I was still riding the high of this experience, and then all of a
sudden I realized exactly what I was doing. I had my hand inside the
scalp of a dead 17 year old. A kid on vacation with his friends.
Someone only a few years younger than I was. I hadn't even closed his
eyes after time of death was called.
That morning after
I got off work, I cried the whole way home. How could I have been
excited to do something like that? I never wanted to become so immune to
the tragedy of the ER that I forgot I was dealing with real lives, real
Here I am six years after becoming a nurse. I
look back at that day and wonder if I would have cried afterwards if the
same scenario replayed tomorrow. Would I still be shocked at the moment
I remembered there was a real person on that stretcher? Would I have
forgotten it in the first place? Or would I just be excited for a
complicated trauma, and never really stopped to think about it at all?
changed so much as a nurse. Much of it is for the positive - I'm
smarter overall, more confident in my nursing, better able to handle
high stress situations. I am way more skilled in the things JCHAO cares
about and more solid at the clinical skills. Does this make me a better
nurse? I don't know. I do know that I haven't cried on the way home in a long time, and I think that speaks volumes.