The measure of success is not where you are, but from where you have come.
As a younger nurse, I had it all figured out. Or so I thought. My definition of success was tainted and influenced by others’ definition of success. The twists, the turns, the barrel rolls all became what has been my career. Or so I thought.
I left the acute care setting, finished a graduate program, and taught. But the truth is the students taught me. I was satisfied, finally. Or so I thought.
I finished another graduate program, and began enjoying life’s material side. I was earning what I was worth. I had finally arrived. Or so I thought.
I was employed by a multi-million dollar company to educate in a specific area of nursing. I was a wound specialist. After teaching myself what no curriculum has time to do, I comfortably fell into a role and excelled. I visited many states, traveled with no expenses spared, and met distinguished people within this dynamic field. I was instructed to follow the practice’s physicians and learn everything I could from them. In all of the whirlwind and recognition, something was not settling in my core. I pushed the uneasiness down, and kept promoting healing. But the uneasiness grew. With that uneasiness developed an anger. I was witnessing daily the routine practice of healthcare practitioners, doctors and nurse practitioners, disregarding the patient as a human being. They did not even know the patient’s name. Without greeting the patient, they would begin their daily practice of maintenance wound debridement without pain control. Maybe a cold blast of a numbing spray, used sparingly served as anesthesia. Handwashing? Changing blades between wounds? Sloppy, inefficient, careless, quick visits equaled a higher billing rate with a procedure bonus to the bill. I saw nurses allowing this to happen and not advocating on the patient’s behalf. I have literally experienced hundreds of our tender elders, crying in pain, and not given comfort. No comfort given to the very people who comforted us, perhaps saved us, perhaps raised us. And there was no comfort given.
Toughen up. Tighten up. This is how we make our money. Some procedures are painful. It is part of life. Shamefully, I tried to convince my heart of these empty words sent in many forms from my bosses.
At what point it became cumulative, I do not know. At what point I succumbed to the stress, I do not know. But I do know is that I have imprinted in the core of my brain detailed, vivid images of a beautiful 98 year old demented nursing home resident with her mouth wide open, unable to speak, with horror in her eyes. What I do know is that I have stamped to eternal memory a fragile, 88 year old contracted father of twelve children, with no visitors, pulling his leg up and down repetitively with tears on his face while his sacral wound was debrided. What I do know is that in Florida lies a 72 year old feisty fireball of a woman who curses everyone in her path because her weekly maintenance debridement takes her days to recover from, and no one even apologizes to her.
This is being done to at least 3,750 patients per week across the country, and no one questions this.
I question how I can remove these staggering snapshots from my brain. I question how I can erase this, how can I forget. But by far, my biggest question is how can I forgive. I do not speak of forgiving a multi-million dollar company who is flourishing under our healthcare system doing this 3,750 times per week. I do not speak of forgiving the nurses who do not feel as though they have a voice. I do not speak of forgiving a system that is so tainted and bought that we do not even know where to begin. I speak only of forgiving myself.
I forgive myself for not quitting sooner. I forgive myself for not trusting that this universe will provide for me once I let go of a paycheck. I forgive myself for ignoring my innermost visceral feeling that this could never be right. I forgive myself for wanting to rid my mind of the images I was meant to see, of suffering I was meant to experience. Those tears and those fear-filled eyes belong in me now. They are mine to live with. To those dear, sweet, precious patients who suffered in the hands of whom they trusted, please somehow hear me. Because of you, others will not suffer. I vow this to each of you. I put this mantra to the universe to reach each of you. Your bravery is not unnoticed. And neither is your name.
I cannot bring down a multi-million dollar company because I do not agree with their practices. Oh, I wish I could! I learned a long time ago to only channel my energy into what I am responsible for.
Advanced Healing is my company now. It is a Delaware company for now. As it grows, I will hand select my team, because I know they are there waiting for me to put them in the game…the game of life. It will be run my way. There will be no suffering at my hands. Pain will be controlled. Anxiety will be alleviated. Healing will be measured. I may not churn out 3,750 bills to medicare because of the amount of time I am taking. But as my philosophy marches forth, we won’t have 3,750 wounds needing to be healed. It will happen in a way that each and every patient will feel the love from my hands. They will relax to the reassuring voice of my knowledge. They will see my heartfelt smile. They will hear me say their name.
To the dear sweet precious residents I mentioned above, this is also your company. You are welcome to visit my mind and to remind my heart that you are always here. I will never forget you, so please do not forget me. I need you now. Work within me as I try to do the imperfect work to another perfect person