I, for one, have never had to stay in the hospital more than maybe a night in the emergency room. No one close to me has had to be hospitalized for a lengthy amount of time that I have been old enough to remember. (Both things i am extremely grateful for!) Therefore, working at the hospital does give me a big dose of reality- that there are REALLY sick people out there. People who led healthy lives that suddenly are dying of cancer. People who will end up with diabetes and renal failure. Others with devastating strokes.
Today I spent some time on patients in the Critical Care Unit, the ICU if you will. That’s where the sickest of the sick end up. I had to recommend tube feedings to two patients. One of the patients was probably going to end up in a long term care facility, never being the same after a terrible cerebrovascular event. The other was being considered for hospice, which of course means that he is getting ready to die. Today I left with a different perspective. Instead of happily bopping into patients rooms and teaching them how to order off the menu, recommending supplement shakes, or teaching about nutrition with whatever new disease they acquired, I had to sit at the computer and think about the severity of their conditions. It didn’t help to run into a family that was crying for another patient further down in the ICU.
It kind of makes you appreciate life, you know?
My mom, a former ICU nurse, made a comment a week or two ago about how patients love students in the hospital. Probably because we’re not used to being in this environment, we almost care too much! One of my patients dying or being close to dying affects me quite a bit. I know in time it will impact me in a lesser way, but it’s definitely something that takes getting used to.
I don’t mean to complain; I know doctors deal with this stuff all the time. But it’s almost reinforcing my original plan to get into public health- prevention!