Thick skin…

Hi everyone,
I appreciate your comments on my last post, and just want to explain what I
meant by #3. When I said, "Every day we see nurses with skin that is way
too thick, and we never want to be like that," I did not mean that every
nurse with thick skin is bad. I agree, most student nurses are
too sensitive at this point, and we do need "thicker skin." However,
there are nurses whose skin is way too thick. This is what I don’t want to be,
and I don’t think any of you are like that. These are the nurses who have
completely lost their compassion, and honestly treat the patient like an
object. When one of my patients was told she was going to die, the RN who was
assigned to her did not even enter her room. She sat in the nurse’s station
telling all the other nurses, "Did you hear 602 (not actual room number)
got twelve months!?" as if it was a basketball score. She didn’t stay out
of her room to give her privacy, it was so she could gossip with the other
nurses. Her skin was so thick that she didn’t even think about the fact that her patient might need someone. I have seen nurses who, after hearing a patient say they are scared of
their upcoming procedure, just shrug it off and say, "You’ll be
fine," and leave to go talk about the nurse on the 5th floor who was
caught stealing narcotics. Would it have hurt her to explain the procedure and
let them know that they would not be alone? No. Or there were the nurses my
friend Julie had to deal with, who when her patient was having a seizure and
she screamed "Help!" from the doorway, actually looked at her and
said, "That’s not my patient." WHAT?! Yes, people are actually like
this. And I don’t think they started like this- I think that over time they
developed this attitude towards patients. Maybe these nurses will never go home
at night and cry over a patient, but I would rather cry every night than lose
my ability to care about other human beings. So when I say, “too thick skin,”
this is what I am talking about.

I have also seen nurses who inspire me. I worked with one
woman named Anne, and I could tell that her patients thought she was an angel.
She has found that perfect balance between being compassionate but not bringing
the pain home with her. That is my goal. It will probably take me a long time
to get there, but having friends or family who simply say, “You need to get a
tougher skin,” is not going to help me reach that goal. I actually have not had
my loved ones say this regarding my patients, but a few of my friends’ families have, and
I know it is upsetting. So, if your loved one is a student nurse, please
understand that this process takes a long time. There are going to be nights
where we want to cry. It is a shock being thrown into the middle of things and
dealing with death and suffering. Please comfort us and listen to us. Don’t
just act like we need to get over it and move on. And to all you
healthy-level-of-thick-skin nurses out there, please do not think that I am
talking about you!!

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8 thoughts on “Thick skin…

  1. Katie, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. I am going to be starting the nursing program in a few days. I am excited and nervous. Hopefully the people in my classes are as down to earth as you are. Your blog helps me to know what to expect. Good luck in all you do. You will be a Great nurse.

  2. thank you for the clarification … i hope that you are confronting these nurses you have mentioned in this posting – in a confidential, apprpriate manner of course – and tell her/then what you just told us … you are probably finding out that nurses are great for venting their feelings about things that bother them to the wrong individuals … gossip, gossip …. its very damaging … if you see another nurse another nurse doing something you think is questionable, or inappropriate, then it is your duty as a nurse to confront that individual … i have worked with nurses like those you describe … they are so cold-hearted they may not realize the effect of their attitude on others … or they feel uncomfortable dealing with serious situations like those you mentioned … its not good enough for our patients or our profession to just sqawk about what we see … i think we need to go further … and that is not easy – confronting colleagues … but i guess its like one of my clinical instructors told a group of us, years ago: "you all will have to decide what kind of nurse you want to be." at the time, i thought i knew what she meant, but as the years pass, i realize there is more to that statement than meets the eye … i have met a nurse who has been nursing for almost 30 years – she has seen it all … and she has survived. how does she do it – her husband and her family have absolutely no knowledge of her job and its daily foibles … finding some way to leave the pain and suffering at work is really the only way to survive this job …cheers,roxanne

  3. just wanted to add … about it being a shock, being thrown in the middle of things and dealing with death and suffering …yes, it is … when i nursed on a cancer ward in a tertiary care centre in a Vancouver, Canada, i likened it to having my head forced under water and being told to breathe … i never got used to wallowing in everyone\’s suffering and death … im not sure that one can ever get used to it … can they?what do others think?roxanne

  4. I know what you mean. I\’ve been a nurse for a LOOONNNNGGG time, and I still cry with patients, and even counseled one to find a lawyer as fast as he could! If it\’s not all about the patient, it\’s not worth the money! I think I have finally found the balance…at least I think so.. but if not, I sincerely hope I go your way, and not the thick-skinned way! There is a science of nursing, which most decently intelligent people can get, and there is the ART of nursing, which few can get. Kind of like many are called but few are chosen!?! But even if it hurts sometimes, it\’s still the only way to go home feeling good about your practice! Keep it up! You\’ll soon find some things make up for the bad times. The patient that thanks you, or better, the family that thanks you for making their loved ones days easier, the cookies one makes you, the card you get when they feel better. Always remember you are making a difference in someone\’s life..for good or bad!

  5. Katie, you have a wonderful grasp on the situation. I feel you\’ll have the balance to be succesful and compassionate.I gain strength from your insights and realize that we can all learn and benefit from each other. Bill

  6. I have to agree with you. I was a Paramedic for some time, and we have had Nurses in our family for as far back as Medicine has existed as a profession. You can never grown hardened to your patients. Yes they can be tough to deal with, but in the medical profession we do not see people at their best times. It is our job and obligation to treat each and every patient as best we can…Even when they aren\’t our patient, aren\’t on our floor, and we aren\’t even clocked in. Always.

  7. I found myself in the ER recently (another story) where most of the nurses were kind and expressed empathy.  However there was one nurse that stood out by her tough sounding voice using direct answers and seemingly lacked much personality.  When I wittingly asked if she was from Germany her reply was yes with a look of question on her face.  Once she assumed my question was an insult she promptly walked over to my bedside, where I had been struggling with the removal of medical tape fused to my skin ripped it off.  Is this what our hospitals are hiring due to the nursing shortage? Wow I don\’t want to be that nurse.

  8. I am a Registered MRI Technologist. I scan a patient every 30 minutes. In between the 30 minutes/breaks/lunch I have to scan inpatients. emergencies and urgent care patients. Sometimes I take a working lunch, gobbling my food. I am very thick skinned because if I am not, I would be a basket case. People are very self centered. They think only of themselves when they enter a hospital. It is "all about them". I have had many patients ask me, "did you come in today (Sunday) to do the scan just for me? Then when I start the scan, they say\’well since I am here can you also do my other knee?". Now they know that the waiting room is filled with people but "It\’s all about them". If I collapsed from exhaustion ,they would just walk over me. I have had patients follow me to the bathroom and bang on the door. I have also had patients who would not wait while I take my half hour lunch. They get angry then report me. Very few people are compassionate in return. Medicine is NOT a one-way street. Patients must realize that we professionals are human beings also with our own lives. People choose their lifestyle and if they die from it they die. If they want to smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarrette, get lung cancer etc, sorry, I don\’t feel anything.. That is the circle of life.People out there don\’t expect us medical people to embrace you. You are just a number and a job period. Your lucky to be treated with respect. Don\’t expect to drain me of all my emotions just for you. I have to work all day.. Next!!!!!!!!!!.

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