As a profession, nurses are viewed as trusting, caring, helpful individuals. We take care of the sick, the dying, and their families. We advocate. We see our patients as individuals. We spend 8, 12, sometimes even 16 hours a day with our patients. We often sacrifice our own well-being and sanity for others, sometimes without a “thank you.” I have come home from my shift and bawled for 10 minutes straight in the arms of my husband. I have also driven home at midnight feeling valued and appreciated. Sometimes, I will be so depressed by a patient’s situation that it will trickle down into the following day. That happened on Monday.
Family dynamics are tricky. Sometimes they pull together for the good of the patient; other times, they fight and squabble for power and control. The first is such a joy to see; the second occurs more often than not. A patient with a sad story, a confusing family situation, and cultural differences – that was what I had to deal with. I am bound by my practice to provide and care for my patients. When families are insisting otherwise, the waters become very muddy. Who (if anyone) has Medical Power of Attorney to make decisions on behalf of the patient? Is the patient able to make decisions? Is the family making decisions based on what they think the patient wants, or are there ulterior (unethical) motives? Does the family have a basic understanding of what is going on, or are they in denial? These are not questions that nurses and doctors have answer regularly, but that does not make it any easier when they do surface. As a new nurse, I was completely overwhelmed and stressed when dealing with these kinds of questions. I will try to learn for this experience, but I realize that every situation is different. What worked on Monday may not be the right answer on Saturday. But, I will keep striving to honor and glorify God by caring for my patients, and their families, to the best of my ability.