I was 40 years old when I started nursing school, and no greenhorn to life. When I graduated from nursing school, I truly expected to be able to go out and heal everyone I touched. That was my goal. I thought it was a realistic expectation. I knew people died in hospitals, but I didn't think it would ever happen to me.
Until I went to Alaska. And was placed on the pediatric side of a hospital unit out in the tundra. Bethel was four hundred miles from Anchorage, and the only way in or out was by plane.
Then the weekend came, and guess who the debridement fell on to do? The pediatrician and me. The pediatricians at this hospital were probably the best I have ever seen. They amazed me with their skill, their understanding of the culture, and their caring attitudes. I particularly looked up to this pediatrician, and trusted her implicitly.
So we medicated the baby with IV Morphine and debrided. And to debride a burn, you SCRUB it. Hard. You have to debride to keep the skin from scarring, and to allow the antimicrobial ointment to prevent infection of the burn. The person I was telling this story to asked me how I did it, how I listened to the screams of the baby (there was no way to deaden his pain completely, the morphine just took the edge off his agony) and I told her that I went to a place inside myself and focused on what I was doing, and kept repeating to myself that it was to help the child, to help the child, over and over like a mantra to myself.
We repeated this for several days, because the wound care nurse was out. I helped the pediatrician, and I helped the physical therapist.
Then I noticed something. The child was healing. New skin, and we were debriding less and less every day. And his screams lessened as the pain lessened. He was HEALING. When the wound care nurse came back and saw how well he was healing, she praised our work. By the time he went home, he had on just one or two small dressings that we taught his mom to change, and gave her ample supplies to do at home.
And I realized as they left, that I had done what I had believed I would be doing when I became a nurse. To heal the sick. To send people home to live a healthier life. I had a hand in that. And the gratification I felt was worth every minute of all the years I had studied and worked as a nurse.
I felt it all the way to my soul. And knew in that moment that you follow a path not knowing where it leads, until you get to the end. And realize what the purpose for traveling that path was. Everything I did as a nurse, led me to that baby. And a greater understanding of what a nurse is, and why I became a nurse.