I am back on placement, my final placement. After this I qualify and become a real nurse. The strange thing is I have spent the last two and a half years rocking every placement, walking around MY hospital with a confidence I have never really felt before(and in most of the situations i've been in over the last three years an outward confidence I didnt really feel). I have been dying to qualify, raring to go. Now I am nearly there I am petrified. I think it was Socrates who suggested something along the lines of - the more you learn the more you come to realise you know nothing.
Now I'm nearing the end of what has been a strange combination of the longest and shortest three years of my life I cant help but look back at the defining moments of my training. In this case the first patient who died under my care. This happened in my first year on my first placement, an elective orthopaedic ward. The patient was only on the ward due to lack of beds on the trauma orthopaedic ward. He had come in following an RTC, he had been stablised in A&E and went into surgery to repair numberous fractures and ruptured vessels. When they had finished with him he was transfered to my ward and remained unstable, his blood pressure constantly dropping, pulse rising and dropping with an irregular rhythm and the patient hadnt been conscious since A&E and a DNR order was signed by his NOK with his permission on presentation to A&E. I was working the night shift about a month into the placement, one of the other nurses had checked on him twenty minutes previously. I went in to check on him largely because there was nothing else to do. He was dead, my first dead patient. He looked just the same, I'd heard all these stories about how people change in death but I had to check for a pulse and watch for breathing to make sure. I walked out of the room and told the nurse. She knew he was taking his last breaths when she'd been in earlier, she just shrugged it off. Then it hit me, the shame that all I was thinking about was how hard his death was for me, the anger at her indifference to the fact someone had just died less than ten feet from where we stood(which I now understand is a defence mechanism and one that I use myself).
Two years on I've worked in A&E, I've worked on many acute medical wards and I have had many patients die under my care. The only way you can survive the reality of acute nursing is to distance yourself from the deaths, and make sure you did everything you could so you know there was nothing more you could have done and their death wasnt your fault.