when a nurse is handed lemons

A patient’s family handed me lemons the other day.

Literally.

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Big, fat, juicy lemons from the lemon tree in her back yard that I have big, fat, juicy plans for because when you are handed lemons…

It isn’t always making lemonade just as the lemons you are often handed aren’t usually real lemons.

Nurses are more often than not handed A LOT of lemons because when you are caring for individuals on what is often a horrible, no-good, very bad day…if not the worst day of their life…you find yourself dealing with a lot of sh…er…lemons:
patients’ problems, their family’s and friends’ problems, physicians’ and other practitioners’ problems, management problems, lab problems, pharmacy problems, radiology problems, housekeeping problems, security problems, your own family problems, aching feet, bursting bladders, raging hunger, eye-twitching headaches, computer downtime, short staffing, exhaustion…and on and on and on…

We handle it. We deal with it. It’s what we do. It’s part of our skill set; a skill set many of us come by naturally and the rest of us work very hard to cultivate and integrate into our practice. Nurses deal with it.

But nurses, just like everyone else, are human…very human. Nurses complain too. They complain sometimes about all of the above and then some. It might seem that might be all we do…to some who then shout STOP COMPLAINING ALREADY! DO SOMETHING! BE A CHANGE-MAKER! They’re right, of course. We should do something. We almost always are even if they don’t appreciate it.

Out of complaints and frustrations often comes just change as many agents of change find inspiration in their own complaints and the complaints of others. Dr. Hultquist, my Fundamentals in Nursing professor and Dean of the Nursing program I graduated from YEARS ago will be proud to know that I still recall some of the agents of change in nursing that she lectured about, all who were inspired from their own frustrations and complaints:

  • Florence Nightingale- Of course one starts with Flo when talking about change-makers in our profession! Laying down the foundations of what is today our profession, Flo was a driving force in changing the reputation of nursing and nurses.
  • Mary Breckinridge- While training and working as a nurse in post World War I Europe, she was inspired to consider that the model of care she was a part of delivering in France could be implemented in remote rural areas of the United States.  From her work as a midwife and nurse in rural Kentucky, evolved the Frontier Nursing Service.
  • Dorothea Dix- One of the pioneers of American Nurses, she became an activist for the post Civil War mentally ill helping to implement the first generation of mental health care in the United States.
  • Mary Eliza Mahoney- recognized as one of the first African American women to break the color barrier graduating from nursing school. Her work through the years of her practice helped to significantly influence the elimination of racial discrimination in the registered nursing profession.
  • Virginia Avenal Henderson- Where would we be were it not for the “first lady of nursing” who helped to define the role of the modern professional nurse, “the unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge.”…Dr. Hultquist I am certain is beaming warmly that I remember this one! Her work is credited with shifting the focus of nursing research from studying nurses to studying the differences that nurses can make in people’s lives.
  • Walt Whitman- Hurray for murses like Walt Whitman! During the Civil War, Whitman spent almost all of his free time at the military hospitals caring for the wounded and ill soldiers. He tried to provide anything that the soldiers needed, bringing them food, writing letters and attending to their physical needs. Often spending his own money for supplies, he did all he could to bring them comfort. He was with many soldiers as they drew their dying breaths.
  • Florence Guiness Blake- Blake is credited with making significant contributions in pediatric nursing and family centered nursing care highlighting he importance of parent-child relationships and parental involvement in the medical care of children. 
  • Linda Richards- Recognized as the first professionally trained American nurse. Richards established nursing training programs in the United States and Japan as well as created the first system for keeping individualized medical records for hospitalized patients.

All of these individuals were great agents of change in the history of the nursing profession…and they are absolutely, certainly not alone.

Nurses and medical staff in a Colombia hospital in the 1970s, frustrated with the lack of proper, working incubators for their frail, tiny patients, as well as increased infection rates, utilized the babies own mothers providing continuous skin to skin contact which freed up caregivers as well overcrowded incubator space. The added surprising benefit was a marked increase in survival rates, decrease in nosocomial infections and respiratory disease and overall improved breastfeeding success and maternal satisfaction and confidence. From this evolved kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin care, a technique practiced on newborn, usually preterm, infants wherein the infant is held, skin-to-skin, with an adult. Kangaroo care for pre-term infants may be restricted to a few hours per day, but if they are medically stable that time may be extended. Some parents may keep their babies in-arms for many hours per day.

Nurses and practitioners in my own NICU became agents of change asking why can’t we have ZERO babies with CLABSI infections which we have managed to do for an unprecedented six years and counting. We’re mighty proud of being a part of that change that evolved from complaining and questioning.

Yes, nurses complain a lot…so it seems. But so do teachers and cops and firefighters and store clerks and hairdressers and drivers and plumbers and students and grumpy old men and mommies and…we all complain. We are a bunch of complainers. We even complain about other people complaining expecting that they will stop complaining when we complain that they should. We’re handed a bunch of lemons in our lives, in our workplace, our classroom, our homes, everwhere and we often do complain. It’s what we do after is what counts most of all.

As for me and the lemons I was handed the other night…I have this great Lemon Chicken recipe

sharing, in moderation

If there is one thing that I enjoy while taking a break is a coke, actually a Coke Zero.

Can you blame me especially when my darling husband adds this bottle to my lunch for work? I’d gladly share but my man has never been known to drink a coke. It’s okay. Still, I would gladly share with anyone:

With Lakisha,

Graciela…

Sue…

Cecilia…

Jessica…

or Isaac…

perhaps even Brittany and Matthew…

then again, maybe not because I would much rather share a coke with Daniel!

Sure it’s not the best thing for me. The two people wearing ER scrubs in line behind me at the hospital cafeteria made it clear just how bad that soda was for me as they loudly passively aggressively congratulated themselves for giving up the evil that is soda while completely ignoring their plates with giant mounds of greasy fries and onion rings. Yes indeed, the soda is a bad, bad thing. The artificial sweetener might give me cancer…if I consume as proportionately as much as a lab rat does. Oh, and the caffeine too although I make no apologies for one Coke Zero during a 12 hour night shift because I do need the caffeine to get through the busy night. One could go on, and perhaps be as colorful as Greg Glassman was recently. Even Daniel understands this as he reads the nutrition label out loud to me.  But he also understands moderation when it comes to diet and sharing mom’s Coke Zero with his name on it is really okay…as long as it is not a daily kind of thing.

Come on, it’s fun…especially when you get to share.

Most certainly when you get to share one with someone who isn’t expecting to ever find their name on a bottle of Coke. Hurray and thank you for my coke connections!

Sharing is caring, y’all…in moderation, but of course!

for the love of the shrimp lover

Because his endocrinologist says he’s not gaining enough weight. Because nothing ruins a delicious meal more than having to say eat your chicken…eat your rice…eat your vegetables…yada, yada, yada, through the entire course of the meal. Because nothing provokes a day filled with anxiety for him than when mom pulls chicken out of the freezer to thaw in the morning. Because this child truly, truly, truly takes the term picky eater to a level that pretty much every other parent ever could never understand…remember when I first started this blog and we were just trying him to get food INTO HIS MOUTH and hopefully chew it and swallow it? Because this child has caused me to break every rule or belief I have had about feeding my family and my family will never, ever let me forget that….EVER!

And because he tells me that he is a shrimp lover as he eats a plate full of shrimp, I keep a big bag of frozen shrimp on hand and have no problem sauteeing a pan full with garlic, butter, lemon and red chili flakes just for him. I just got him to literally inhale more than 100 calories there. He then asks for seconds which I will happily oblige…AFTER he eats his vegetable please.

ladies who lunch…

Always greet you with a friendly hello.

Pair purple Crocs with jeggings and a tutu and make it work.

Ladies who lunch always stop to smell the pretty flowers.

They also make their aunties run to keep up with them because they can and it’s fun.

Run Zoë, run!

Ladies who lunch LOVE to drink Shirley Temples especially when they are presented with extra cherries.

I can’t lie. I miss seeing those former neighbors of mine every day. But I am liking spending a free afternoon with ladies who lunch.