"How was your day today?" "What happened at work?" The same questions we may ask others -- our partner, our children, our friends -- I find present many a nurse with challenges in succinctly responding.
We think about saying:
I took care of a gravely ill patient and his family, and he in turn shared from the depths of his soul about his fear of dying and the many losses he anticipated. I worked with the palliative care team to address his pain management needs, got in touch with his rabbi to come by and meet with him and his wife, and really worked to keep him comfortable all the way around today. In the afternoon, a young woman we treated for leukemia last year came by just to say hi and thanked us for getting her through her initial treatments before her transplant.
We might say instead, "It was profound today." And others might say, "It was just a usual day," reflecting that it was a day full of the usual routines and occurrences, some planned and some unplanned. Some days are better than others, but all are interesting.
How often do we filter what we say because it is just too difficult to put into words, too upsetting (we think to those who don't know about our profession), or too hard to talk about because it causes us to relive the experiences once home?
Balancing the responsibilities we have to our patients, our peers, and our organizations may require many different skills and talents throughout the day: managing time, prioritizing care, discerning the nature of new symptoms in a patient, placing meaningful written notations in the chart, making medication administration deadlines, and seeing the "big picture" for each and every one in our care.
I have often thought if I had a penny for every reflection I have made about my work, usually to myself, of every special moment shared, I'd be a very rich individual today. Yet what's more, I might be more articulate in those awkward moments when I don't know how to respond to the question "How was your day?"
I went into nursing with a sense of having a calling -- to help others and to contribute to society. I liked the complexity of the studies in biology, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, psychology, sociology, psychiatry, medicine, surgery, and nursing (the human response in health and illness).
Cancer nursing was a logical next step given the job availability when I graduated, and I have never looked back. My sense of the importance of spirituality in nursing practice came much later, as did my comfort talking about it. I hope with this and future blogs, it will contribute to the dialogue about psychospiritual nursing practice from the inside out.