As I struggled my way through nursing school, I never expected my first job as a nurse to feel like this; I was too busy dreaming of the day when I could hold the title of Registered Nurse.
I never expected to come home crying. I never expected that, at times, I’d mumble the words “I hate my job.” I never expected many of the challenges I face daily–but here I am, six weeks
Amulya Iyer ~
they teach us
the types of diuretics,
their effects on the tubules–
convoluted or not.
They tell us to check
for pitting edema,
and grade it to see
how bad it has gotten.
But who teaches
to kneel by the woman,
her legs swollen,
her heart failing in her chest–
to slip off
Scott Janssen ~
“You need to get here now!” The nurse whispers anxiously. It’s after midnight. One of our hospice patients has just died at home, and her husband is threatening to shoot himself when the funeral home shows up.
“Has the funeral home been called?” I ask.
“Does he have a gun or weapon?”
“We’re out in the country. There are deer heads on the wall.”
My brother-in-law, Ron, was a curmudgeon; grumpy, sullen, even downright mean at times.
By blood, he and my husband Bill were cousins. In the 1950s, when Bill was just a child, his mother died unexpectedly, and Ron’s mother took Bill in to live with her and her four children. They were an African-American family living in the midst of a middle-class, predominantly white Connecticut township. Their home, located on a wealthy
Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.
I learned that in the first year of medical school. “Nonmaleficence” is the fancy name given to this sentiment, and it’s one of the four pillars of modern bioethics. In real life, it’s an impossible standard: We harm patients all the time. But the spirit behind the principle is what matters. Do the least possible harm to patients as they go through the medical system.
I am a professor of family medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. During their third and fourth years, students must complete a four-week clerkship in family medicine. The clerkship includes a “significant-event reflection” project, in which students discuss patient encounters that they’ve found especially meaningful.
Over nearly a decade as a facilitator for these groups, I have heard many powerful and emotional stories. I’ve often felt deeply moved–and admiring
About the artist:
“Originally from a small town in Upstate New York, I’m now in my fourth year at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, also in New York. I’m applying for residency programs in pediatrics. I graduated in 2013 from St. Lawrence University with a degree in biology.
Years ago, as I left my college dorm room, the posters caught my eye. Plastered everywhere, they announced a bone-marrow drive led by a fellow student in search of a match for his brother, diagnosed with cancer.
A confirmed needlephobe, I’d recently fled a Red Cross blood drive at the mere thought of the tourniquet. Registering as a bone-marrow donor seemed like a terrible idea–but the sibling connection grabbed me and
I softly scrub blood from the teeth of a man who died moments ago. From the chair where I sat quietly writing nursing notes while he quietly ended, my patient’s sallow skin and sunken cheeks looked so peaceful. But the weeks of stagnant residue on his teeth bothered me.
To brush the teeth of someone who was in the process of dying would have contradicted my orders to provide comfort care,
Dr. Peterson, the radiation oncologist, gets right to the point.
“The medical center’s tumor board has concluded that your cancer is inoperable, incurable and untreatable,” he says flatly. “Any chemotherapy or radiation treatments would be palliative in nature.”
He begins explaining the reasons behind the board’s verdict, but everything he’s saying washes out. My mind stopped working as soon as I heard the words “incurable” and “palliative.” I am sliding into
When Mom died of alcohol poisoning on her sixtieth birthday, I was seventeen and then I didn’t have a mom anymore.
My heart was crushed, but there was no time to grieve, because my dad was dying. A man in his late fifties, he’d battled emphysema, a brain aneurysm, colon cancer and then bone-marrow cancer.