Working Momma

No, Thank You.

Over the last decade (plus) of working as a geriatric nurse I have, on occasion, become close to not only the patients I care for but also their families.  In any long-term care and skilled nursing facility you get to know family members, especially the ones that visit often.  You build a professional relationship with them that can so easily become personal as you share some of the most emotionally challenging times of their lives as they watch their mother, father, beloved aunt or uncle, or that special grandparent go through the stages of chronic illness and eventually move on.   The majority of the time I work exceptionally hard to keep that relationship professional.  I do this not because I do not care, I do… deeply.  I create that boundary to protect my emotional well-being.  This serves a double purpose of being able to more easily compartmentalize my emotions so that I can comfort a grieving family member while continuing to provide quality care to my other patients.

This weekend we had a death.  It wasn’t unexpected, but it was a death that hit harder than others have for multiple reasons.  The patient was special.  You know how some people just light up a room?  This patient was able to do that even when battling severe pain from the cancer that would eventually take away life.  There was a sparkle in this patient’s eye that nothing could extinguish.  This patient’s smile was catching and made your heart lighter and was a gift that was shared with everyone.  This patient’s family loved him deeply.

I went in to work on Friday knowing I had to work a double shift and that I was going to be working on the long-term care unit rather than the skilled unit I typically work on.  I was a little excited to go into work because I was going to be able to spend some extra time with residents that I no longer get to see as much since switching to the skilled floor a month ago.  I was feeling refreshed coming in after 3 days off.  My nurse-partner and I work so well as a team, and Friday started our weekend together.  The family of the dying patient was in sitting with him, socializing with each other, doing everything they could to lift each other’s spirits.  They had been in non-stop for 4 days at that point since the patient had taken a turn for the worst Monday night holding vigils and celebrating a life lived well and full of love.  Immediately after they all went home for the night the patient took his last breath and went to sleep.  I made what is always the hardest phone call in the world to make to his family.  They came back to say goodbye one more time and upon entering the building thanked me.  The words they said were beautiful and appreciated, but I have some of mine own to say back to them.


Thank you.

Thank you for showing me that there are still families that will drop everything to be with a loved one in their time of need.

Thank you for openly sharing your love with each other.

Thank you for including not only the family of blood, but also this patient’s family of choice.

Thank you for dropping any problems you may have with one another and supporting one another through this time.

Thank you for bringing laughter in what can be a dark time.

Thank you for sharing your stories with myself and all of the other staff.

Thank you for supporting this patient’s end of life choices, giving him the support he wanted and needed, and allowing us to provide him with as much comfort as possible.

Thank you for openly appreciating not only my work, but also the work of every single staff member in the facility.  You don’t know how very rare that is.

Thank you for cherishing and learning from your elders.


I see a lot of death because of the age group I choose to work with.  I wish I could say that I see the open love in every family that I saw in this one, but sadly that just isn’t true.  So I will leave everyone with this thought.  Family is the most important thing you can create in this world.  It does not matter if the “family” you create is related to you by blood or if they are a family of choice… if you are lucky you will have both.

Cherish them.  Love them.  Support them in their times of need.  It will pay you back ten fold.


BRAIN! an awesome new initiative from the NIMH

This post from the National Institute of Mental Health director’s blog caught my eye in my email this morning and I wanted to pass the link on to all the other health science/mental health/psychology nerds out there.
I am super-excited about the BRAIN initiative, and hope everyone pushes for this to get funded!  Just think of all the advances the medical community could make in combating devastating illnesses like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism spectrum disorders with more complete studies of the brain.


Spinal Stimulation

Over the course of my nursing career I have had the opportunity to work closely with several people who had severe spinal injuries and subsequent paralyses. Although I am not currently practicing that type of nursing I do like to keep myself informed. This afternoon when I received my weekly NIH email update I was directed to and read this short article with great interest. I encourage everyone to check it out!

I love science 🙂

Striving For Virtue, why modern attitudes towards virtue are detrimental (and frustrating)


It is such as short and simple word, but is so full of meaning in today’s society. It brings to mind people who are too good to be true, angelic almost, or without fault. A state that every person, even the most saintly among us, would find difficult at best to achieve. In society today being a virtuous person often has negative undertones.

Yet I believe that everyone should strive to be a virtuous person.

When I say that I refer to the meaning of virtue from the times if the great Greek philosophers. In the time of Socrates the word virtue had no negative connotations like it can carry today. To be a virtuous person was simply to be a person who strived for excellence in everything they do on a regular basis. This state is achieved through the creation of good habits, proper choices, and the development of good character.

A person of virtue is a person who holds themselves accountable, strives to do their best every day, actively participates in life and learning, and does not allow themselves to become victims to the circumstance they are born into, instead choosing to develop a good character despite any road blocks in their way.

One thing that absolutely baffles me about modern attitudes toward character is the thought that it is something that people are born with and cannot be changed. With all of the research regarding nature versus nurture over the years that has repetitively shown that neither nature nor nurture is the sole answer for what determines personality, how is it that society still thinks of character as something that is solely determined by nature?

This common attitude is crippling our society. It creates too many convenient excuses for people and throws personal accountability out the door. The “he can’t help it, he was born this way attitude” is a great contributor to the “affluenza” afflicted youth we are seeing come of age at this time. It is the type of attitude that teaches our children that personal growth is not a possibility for them, so they really shouldn’t bother to try.

I propose that instead of teaching our children that living a life of virtue is an impossibility and boring (because nobody wants to be a goody two shoes) we should educate them on the old meaning of the word. Virtuosity is not something we should be ashamed of; it is something every person should strive for. Imagine all of the good we could do as a society if every person strived for excellency on a daily basis? Imagine if every person had a sense of personal accountability for their actions and always strived to do what was best not only for themselves, but also for their community?

It would be amazing.

The Power of Hugs

I am not a hugger by nature, but I am one by design and these are a few reasons why:

  • Hugs or other tactile contact between individuals has been proven to be essential to a person’s well being from the moment they are born.  A simple hug that lasts at least 3 seconds can change the course of someone’s day by providing them with comfort and a short mental recharge.
  • There are multiple studies out there showing that elderly individuals can benefit significantly from “touch therapy” including: hugs, massage, hand holding, shoulder holding, and pet therapy.  The multitude of benefits from a simple touch in the elderly include everything from a decrease in rates of depression and pain, to increases in functional ability (especially in arthritic patients), and overall increases in life satisfaction.
  • Hugs help build relationships and promotes healing.  Used in the clinical setting they can provide patients with additional mental resources to use in combating their illnesses.  The absence of touch has actually been shown to negatively influence a person’s mental status over time causing them to be withdrawn and less likely to heal.
  • Hugging is a two way street.  Sure the person you are hugging is reaping tons of benefits from the hug, but you are getting your own little mental boost as well.
The best part of my day

The best part of my day

So go out and hug someone who is receptive to a hug…. especially your Grandparents.  If they aren’t huggers try a shoulder pat or a hand hold.  The power of touch is immense and it will not only benefit the person being touched but also the person doing the touching 🙂

Interested in reading more, in depth research on the importance and power of a hug?  Check out these awesome journal articles:

Providing Wholistic Health Care for the Elderly; by: Pamela A Shuler, Roxana Huebscher, and Judith Hallock; in the Journal of The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners


The Touch That Heals; by: Drew Leder, and Mitchell W Krucoff; in The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine

A Long Journey In Nursing Part 2, The Love/Hate Relationship

So as I mentioned before I currently have a love/hate relationship with my job. I think this is something that every mom who chooses to go back to work can relate to. I love going to work. I love my job. Practicing the art of nursing is vital to my overall happiness and well being. I hate leaving my son….
I know! I can’t have it both ways, and it really doesn’t make any sense to love going to work but hate leaving my son, but that is how it is. Every day that I pack up my lunch and head out the door I do so with a sense of anticipation regarding what that evening will bring at work. One of the joys of nursing is that no two nights are ever the same. Nursing is certainly not a dull career; it’s a career for those with a sense of adventure. There I also a little part of me that is just happy to be heading out the door to spend some time with adults.
Now don’t get me wrong, I cherish every little moment Liam and I have together. Every dance party, music party, play time party (we like to party), and snuggle-fest are part of those little moments I like to try and capture to carry with me. I fully realize that he is only going to be 9 months old once, and I don’t want to miss anything. I hate to leave him for fear that I will miss that “first” that I so desperately want to be there for.
I also know that if I need to go to work to take on the challenges it provides: advocating for my patients, catching that patient’s start of urosepsis before it gets too bad, educating my staff, building relationships within the nursing team, and a million other little things that help make life better for those that are entrusted to my care. If I didn’t my personal view of myself would change in a negative way. I don’t feel like I could be as good of a mom to Liam and wife to my husband without meeting the challenge of balancing a career and a family.
So what does that say about me that part of my sense of self worth is based on a title that I hold and a job that I perform?
Honestly , I am really not sure. Part of me feels like it’s ok, I have worked really hard (and paid a lot of money) to earn these degrees with the intention that I would use them. I continue to work hard to further my education and career because my parents taught me the value of hard work, and to enjoy the satisfaction that performing a difficult task provides. I firmly believe that the harder you have to work for something the more enjoyment it will bring in the long run (and the more appreciative you will be for it). I hope that the example I set for my son as a working mom by choice will be a good one and will encourage him to have similar ambitions and drive. At the same time I worry that by not staying at home to satisfy my need to work I will somehow miss something that he needs to grow into a productive and responsible adult.
Only time will tell…


A Long Journey In Nursing

Ahh the JOB. I have a love/hate relationship with it right now, but first a little history.
I graduated from nursing school in 2005 and knew immediately after graduation that I was going to go back for additional degrees. After many long semesters of school the one thing I found most intriguing about nursing was the thought that I could teach it some day. Instead of going back to school full time I opted for part time so I could gain experience in the field while advancing my degree.
The nicest part, and also the most torturous part, of nursing school were the clinicals. On one hand they gave you first hand experience and semester long glimpses into some of the many different worlds of nursing that are out there. On the other hand the care plans were torture… Although apparently not for everyone, I actually met a nurse the other day who said she loved care planning. I told her she should consider going into MDS. I knew when I graduated that I wanted to work in long term care. I love being able to really build relationships with the residents and I enjoy the age group. I also knew when I graduated that the last place I wanted to work was pediatrics or maternity. I hated those semesters in nursing school and to this day can not picture myself working with those populations.
For the last 9 years I have been working in long term care and skilled nursing facilities and truly have enjoyed every moment.
When my husband and I decided to have a child I planned on going back to work after, and understood it
was going to be full time. This is partly because I can’t picture myself not working full time, and the other part is for the money… Being a professional student is an expensive hobby.
Right now I am 3.5 years from my ultimate goal of a MS in nursing with a concentration in teaching. It is exciting to be this close to no longer being a student, and terrifying as well. Not being a student for the first time in a very long time just seems strange. At the same time I look forward to entering into a job that will more closely mirror Liam’s schedule when he is entering into school, while currently enjoying a job that provides me with the flexibility I need to avoid daycare costs during his infant and toddler years.


Really, who could resist that mischievous grin poking around the corner?

I love the balance I am finding in my life right now and can honestly say I have never been happier. I am truly looking forward to the next few years and the changes they will bring both to my personal and professional life. Providing quality nursing care is only one of my passions. My family, dogs, and friends are my others. While I do frequently wish I had more time, because I truly would love I spend more time at every aspect of my life, there are only 24 hours a day and I try to make the most of every one of them.

Now I suppose I should go study 🙂