When I was offered the position I was told that I would be working on the Collaborative Acute Care for the Elderly (CACE) unit. After talking to some friends who work at the hospital, they clued me in to the fact that I would be working on the geriatric med/surg floor. All I was hoping for was med/surg, so fine by me! I like old people!
It was only then after I started my job that I got a real understanding of the floor I would be working on. While yes it is mostly a geriatric med/surg floor, meaning our youngest patients are 65, it is also the end of life unit. Not true hospice, because hospice tends to be the last 6 months of life, but palliative care for people who are actively dying, people who have hours to days to live. When I was told this, immediately I thought "This is not the type of nursing I thought I'd signed up for!" In true Brittaney fashion, I had a negative attitude about it. But because I was thrilled about the med/surg part, I continued on.
Now here I am, 2 months into the job, and while I have more to learn that I can ever imagine, I have learned a few things that I have really stuck with me. I have had my heart tugged on more then I ever thought, and been in tears both at work, and at home over the people I have had the privilege to care for. I am learning I really don't mind end of life care so much, and dare I say I might enjoy it? Too soon.... But being an end of life nurse has quickly taught me these 9 things:
1. That getting to care for someone in their dying days is truly an honor.
2. That death is not scary.
3. It is not avoidable.
4. That I need to get a living will written ASAP, and make sure all my family members also have them
5. That life is more precious then I realize. Caring for a dying woman the same age as me is something I will never forget.
6. That other cultures view death/dying very differently then the way most American's do.
7. Getting to pray for the family and over the patient is one of the many reasons why I love being a nurse
8. Everyone grieves so differently. Some wail loudly, some are quite stoic.
9. Everyone's life is of value, whether a prostitute, or a recluse (both of which I have cared for) and no one deserves to die alone.