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Archive for May, 2011
During a visit to a military medical clinic, I was sent to the lab to have blood drawn.
The technician there was friendly and mentioned that his mood improved every day because he was due to leave the service in two months.
As he applied the tourniquet on my arm, he told me that taking the blood wouldn’t hurt much.
Then, noticing my Air Force T-shirt he asked me what my husband did.
When I replied that he was a recruiter, the technician smiled slyly and said, “This might hurt a little more than I thought.”
- Rules of wounds
- A “sucking chest wound” is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.
- If you’re bleeding to death, say something witty.
- If you’re actually dying, say something deep.
At a naval barracks the enlisted men were being given their shots prior to going overseas. One lad, having received his series of injections, asked for a glass of water.
“What’s the matter, Mate?” asked the sick bay attendant. “Do you feel pain?”
“No. I just want to see if I’m still watertight!”
Did you know that the Army can cure death? It’s true:
During an Army war game, a commanding officer’s jeep got stuck in the mud. The C.O. saw some men lounging around nearby and asked them to help him get unstuck.
“Sorry sir,” said one of the loafers, “but we’ve been classified dead and the umpire said we couldn’t contribute in any way.”
The C.O. turned to his driver and said, “Go drag a couple of those dead bodies over here and throw them under the wheels to give us some traction.”
At first glance, the world of the military nurse is very different from our own. After all, here we are, safe and sound, while they’re on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other places around the world.
Military medical personnel are confronted daily, hourly, with the results of war. Even those of us who work in civilian trauma facilities don’t see a fraction of what these folks experience. None of us have to wear body armor when working triage!
Yet in many ways, we’re not as different as you might suppose. The same nursing skills we use every day are also used by military personnel. That being said, the structure, rules and regulations of the military can make tasks more challenging than they are on the more peaceful side of the equation.
Take a simple assessment:
Once, there was this one Marine Corps. General who was in a horrible accident. As a result, he had to have both of his ears amputated. Years later, he was interviewing a young Lt. in his office. He really liked this Lt. and asked him “Hey Lt., do you notice anything different about me?”
The Lt. replies “Well, yes sir, you have no ears.”
The general was so mad that he kicked the Lt. out of his office.
The next day, the general was interviewing a female Lt. He also like this Lt. and asked her the same thing. “Lt. do you notice anything about me?”
She says “Well yes sir, you have no ears.”
He kicks her out of his office.
Now, the next day, the general is interviewing a GySgt. He really likes this clever GySgt. and asks him “Sergeant, do you notice anything about me?”
The Sarge says “Well yes sir you’re wearing contact lenses.”
The general was so impressed and asked “How did you know I was wearing contacts?”
The sarge says “Well, it’d be pretty hard to wear glasses without ears.”
Humor and the Military Nurse
Humor is a valuable tool that allows us to remain resilient and up to the challenges that must be faced and overcome. When you’re in an extremely tense environment – and I’d say any environment where you have a more than reasonable expectation of being shot at qualifies! – the ability to identify and exploit those opportunities to laugh is a critical survival skill.
Humor provides many valuable physical and emotional benefits. By alleviating the effects of stress and tension, laughter helps return the body to a state of balance. Obviously, this is not a cure all. Just as we know there are no truly quiet nights in the ER, every moment of our military medical personnel’s day is one that is inherently filled with stress and tension.
It is not unusual to hear military personnel who have been deployed overseas talk about a sense of being forgotten or separated from the world back home. This sense of isolation is very bad not only for their morale, but for making the transition back home once the deployment is done easier. Humor can play a role in combatting this sense of being separate and forgotten.
Reach out to nurses and military medical personnel that you know who are far from home. Something as simple as a funny email can bring a much needed smile. When you send care packages, tuck in some funny cartoons or jokes. If we practice laughing together when we’re apart, it will be that much easier to laugh together when we’re on the same soil once again!
While I wrote that quote for a recent weekly business column, it applies universally, especially so for patients.
If you’ve been in nursing for awhile, maybe you’ve observed what I’ve experienced firsthand – a decrease in the time patients, myself included, are willing to be patients. Attention spans for self-care shorten as our recoveries drag on from illness or surgery. Our society doesn’t do patienthood well anymore.
We want popcorn-ready recovery. Click a button, and presto – we’re done.
We live in an Instant Everything world. “Three seconds for a Web site to load??? Sheesh!” How that mentality affects recovery is a subject I touch on in my upcoming book, too.
As I note in the introduction (the ‘Check In’) to my book:
“We live in an Instant Gratification, Instant Everything world. Consequently, as patients, we might not have the skills needed to persevere while healing and recovery take their own sweet time. Perseverance is a dying art. The good news is we can regain those skills, especially when you lead the way.”
An excerpt from another chapter (complete with comment and question at end) recalls a time when I struggled with the patience to persevere. I underwent two record-book total hip revisions, six months apart. The non-weight-bearing walker I used for six months following each surgery allowed my bone grafts to heal.
“With the gracious help of lots of friends, family, and coworkers, I made it through the tumultuous post-surgical year of limited mobility. It was a trying time, even for someone ordinarily blessed with loads of patience.
The support and positive comments I received from [my surgeon] and his team at my periodic follow-up appointments encouraged me to keep going. Other patients made it through similar extended recovery times. I would, too.
I never thought I’d long to have my Walking Stick back. We don’t always know how good we have it until we don’t.
I knew I was feeling better a few months post-op when my patience with the walker was kaput. I could move so much quicker without it! It got in my way and slowed me down, and I had things to do.
While having been given strict orders to use my walker 100% of the time, and knowing the risks if I didn’t heal completely, I decided to compromise.
Using the walker in the traditional manner was too slow 100% of the time. So when I felt the need for speed, I began dragging the walker behind me. It was still with me. I was still using it.
We can justify anything, can’t we? In retrospect, it was a ridiculous move. But being the person living it at the time, it seemed a safe bet. I healed fully, in spite of myself. There are times this patient really should be fired.
Patients like me must be wearing for professionals like you. All the work you do to make sure I have the best chance to fully heal, and I risk it because I’m impatient. I’ve heard of doctors firing patients for not conforming to orders. I’m grateful my [health care givers] stick with me through my own occasional self-sabotaging efforts.
Stick Together ~ Who sticks by you when your actions suggest that their efforts might be better spent elsewhere?”
You provide the necessary reminders for your patients to persevere through a full and proper recovery. Your patients will short-change themselves; we look to you for the encouragement our perseverance-depleted selves crave.
JNJ’s own fabulous Karyn Buxman has this to say about my book: “Kris Harty has the delightful ability to pull you into her world – make you laugh, bring a tear to your eye – and then deftly show you how her experience applies to your life’s work. A real shot in the arm to combat fatigue and restore your connection with why you got into this work in the first place.” Part memoir, part application, and hot off the press for Nurses Day in May: “A Shot in the Arm and A Strong Spirit: How Professional Health Care Givers Help Patients Persevere.” A perfect read on breaks or in staff meetings, contact me for ideas to get every nugget from it, including video conferencing for book clubs or speaking at your event. Pre-order or purchase in bulk for greater savings. Contact me: call 877.711.STIC(K), email StrongSpirit@StrongSpiritUnlimited.com, or visit www.StrongSpiritUnlimited.com.
May is here, and you know what that means! It’s National Nurses’ Week! Nurses’ Week is a time to celebrate everything that makes nursing as a profession distinctive and unique, to reflect and rejoice in the very real difference we make in the lives of our patients – and in the lives of the people we work with everyday.
Christine Belle said, “Our job as nurses is to cushion the sorrow and celebrate the joy, everyday, while we are just doing our jobs.” How true is that? Being a nurse puts us directly in the center of some of life’s most dramatic moments – the arrival of a child, the end of life, the discovery that there is no amount of mentos and diet Coke that you can ingest that will enable you to fly – and we’re there to do more than bear witness. We help ease pain, alleviate confusion, and provide valuable emotional support – on top of the everyday work of helping and healing. Amazing! (more…)