Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Day Has Come - Graduation From Nursing School!

  Although this is the blog where I have all my favorite blogs listed, I haven't posted anything here for 3 years! The time has come to update this blog as I am graduating from nursing school. It will be evident why my writing has taken a back seat to blogging. The busyness and demands of challenging pre-reqs and then nursing school itself sapped all the creative writing juices right out of me.
     Quite honestly, the rigors of nursing school were way beyond me too often. I had too many moments where I thought, "What am I doing here?! Was I crazy to think I could do this?!" And, "I don't know if I can make it. This is so hard!" The sheer volume of information I had to learn and then apply to challenging and sometimes badly written test questions was daunting. I got a couple of A's on tests, failed a couple others, but mostly squeezed by with B's and C's. I ended up with a "B" in my 5-unit Theory class every semester. I was never so proud of a "B" grade as I was at the end of my 3rd and 4th semesters of nursing school.
     I had some wacky professors. I adored one, disliked one, and was afraid of  one. One was sick for half of the semester and our clinical group was left with cancelled clinicals and a half-hearted substitute.  I lost so many opportunities that first semester. I find myself challenged to pray for the one I disliked. There were so many bad attitudes exposed in my heart during nursing school. Self-pity, particularly during my third semester, reared its insidious, ugly head. I had to vigilantly stomp it out with cries of mercy to God. He was faithful to help me. 
     And then there were my classmates. Oh, those looney, shy, sweet, sassy and smart folks that I commiserated with. We bonded in so many ways. We laughed and teased one another often and in healing ways. I really love and cherish so many of them. I will miss them terribly.
      I've never studied so intensely in my whole life. I hated saying all too often to my husband and kids, "I can't do such and such. I have to study!" And I never feared failing as much as I did during nursing school. The very real threat of blowing it on tests, overthinking questions, not reading over that small box on the last page of the reading material and missing the answer on the test was nerve-wracking. It happened more than once. The worst part about tests was choosing wrong test answers even though I spent dozens of hours studying that material. Sometimes I just missed the point the question was asking, but it was so disheartening to know that my test score did not accurately reflect my knowledge. Oh well.
     And then there were the clinical days. I had patients whom I liked so much. I was terrified of hurting them or making big mistakes. At the very beginning of my clinicals, I was nervous about even touching them! I had a lot of mental barriers to overcome. I also had to force myself to become more comfortable with touching people, feeling their bellies, looking at their backsides, listening to their hearts. Hands-on nursing care is such a vulnerable place to be. I was so grateful for all those kind patients who trusted me. And I completely understood the few that didn't! Ha!
      I had encouraging, helpful, sweet nurses. And then I had a couple of monster nurses- one primarily. The blow to my ego and self-esteem was massive. Nursing school was so humbling.
     I am a very different person than I was four years ago. I am more comfortable with who I am, with discussing medical and health issues with people and more confident in my nursing abilities. And yet I have so much more to learn. I enter the nursing profession with eyes wide open and ears at the ready to listen to instruction and guidance. My prayer has been that God will open the doors to the BEST training hospital available. I am asking God boldly and persistently to hand pick nurses, nurse managers, CNA's and a hospital to provide me with the training needed to be a skilled, competent, knowledgeable nurse. I trust him for this next big step into the unknown. He's brought me this far and I trust him to continue opening doors and leading me into the calling he has prepared for me. 

I love this girl! Me and Marisa - my study buddy and closest friend from nursing school :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Surprising Adventures in Advocacy

     Feel Better Hospital has been a fun place to volunteer these days. I've been primarily on the Couplet Care Unit (another name for the Postpartum Unit) or, where moms go who have recovered from childbirth and are ready to be moved with their babies (hopefully) to a different floor. I have done breastfeeding surveys, handed out car seats to moms being discharged, and collected breakfast trays and passed out ice water. These various activities have provided opportunities for me to see adorable babies and sweet couples recovering from the thrilling exhaustion of childbirth. By the time they are hours from being discharged, car seat in hand, the reality of parenthood the first, third or umpteenth time around has settled into their demeanor: this little person going home with them is all theirs!
     Quietly knocking on the door and announcing, in a soft voice (I dread waking any mommy up), "Hi there. It's Laura from Volunteer Services. I'm here with your car seat,"  I greet them as I open the door and pull back the curtain. I'll look at the baby and reply, "What an adorable baby!" Then I'll look at both mom and dad and say, with great exuberance, "You two did a great job! He's beautiful!" They both smile and sometimes have a sheepish look on their face. (This sweet look on their faces has the effect of melting my heart a bit and diminishing aspects of the pain-stained memories of some of my childbirth experiences.) I'll proceed to talk about the car seat and the benefit of strapping the baby in before they are taken downstairs so they are not struggling with adjusting the baby's straps while also trying to get the seat buckled in their car. I have the mom then sign that she received the car seat. Before I leave I assure them that if they have any questions they can call for their nurse or me. "Congratulations!" I say as I exit the room and head toward my next car seat recipient.
     Years ago, after I had Daisy at The Country Club Hospital, there was a student nurse that came into my room to do whatever. She was so cheery and complimentary in her own way: "I can tell this is your 5th child. You are so relaxed. The atmosphere is totally different in your room than down the hall with the parents who just had their first." She wasn't judgmental or critical of the other patients, just sharing an observation she had made. I felt so comforted and encouraged in this peculiarly validating way. Her sunny disposition more than anything was a very bright spot after an extremely upsetting delivery and a scary night at the hospital.
     So, it is my attempt to recreate her sweet and cheery disposition that makes me approach new parents with such a positive attitude. Of course, loving all things mother/baby/childbirth/family also comes through in my encouragement and enjoyment of every couple's new baby. I so hope that even in a tiny way I've put a  measure of encouragement into their parenting journey as they welcome their new baby into their lives.
     Today brought an interesting acouple my way. How things played out with them both heartened and surprised me. I entered their room and began talking with them. Both were very intellignet and articulate. After I dispensed said car seat, I asked them, "Is there anything else I can get for you?" The mom, a tad bleary-eyed, asked, "Can I be discharged today?" We talked some about when she delivered and how it went. I saw no reason why she couldn't. However, I only said, "Let me talk to your nurse." After mentioning to her nurse the patient's request, the nurse quickly barked, "No she can't! She just delivered yesterday." I walked back into the room and told the patient what the nurse had said. "However," I added, "You can ask your nurse to ask your doctor. Your doctor is the one who will actually discharge you." I encouraged them to "sweetly and assertively" ask that the nurse call their doctor regarding their request. They chuckled at this suggestion and mentioned that they had already called the doctor's office to let him know she'd like to be discharged today. Good for you! I thought. I love patients who are smart and assertive.
     We began to talk more about the details surrounding her baby's birth. As her lovely birth story unfolded there was one very sad element in the whole blessed event: Dad had missed the delivery. The clincher?
     Naturally, my "Childbirth-Should-Be-As-Positive-As-Possible-Including-Having-Your-Husband-At-Your-Baby's-Birth" hackles were raised. As we discussed more details about what happened, I explained why the nurses might have taken the course of action they did. I also agreed, though, that they could have done things differently to ensure that he was present for his baby's birth. I also suggested that he talk with the nurse manager of Labor and Delivery (I even provided him with her first and last name!) and/or that he write a letter explaining what happened, how it negatively impacted him, and how they could have specifically handled it better. This man's sadness and disappointment was palpable. My heart broke to see that. His sweet, upbeat wife was trying to reassure him that he was there for the most important part, her labor, and that he would be available for all the important details of caring for their new, darling, dimpled baby. I appreciated her efforts, but they were lost on her husband. I validated how he was not served by the short-sighted nursing care and how sad it was to miss his baby's birth. I encouraged them to speak up about it.
     And then I  did something  about it. (This is where the delightful surprise came in: I could take action to help in some small way to right this wrong they had experienced.) After bidding them farewell, I went down to the patient advocate's office. She is a lovely woman who holds herself with such composure and dignity, that I sincerely hope and pray that it translates into her ability to affect some sort of change in nursing policies on Labor and Delivery at Feel Better Hospital. I briefly described the situation, how the dad was visibly affected, pointed out how the nurses could've handled it differently and told her the patient's room number. She was very sympathetic and agreeable with me. At the end I said, "My husband missed one of our baby's births. It was devastating. It's a moment you can never get back." The depth of her understanding reflected in the sympathetic look she gave me. She reassured me that she would talk with the patient.
      How all that might make any difference, I don't know. I hope the couple is comforted by it. I hope the nurse manager and that particular nurse are made aware of it. I so hope that one dad is spared missing his baby's birth, with his wife frantically calling out for him, because I brought the issue to light in my small little corner of the world. Feel Better Hsopital should earn its name, instead of Feel Really Bad Hospital.
     I'd like to think that my volunteer activites aren't so shaped by all of my childbirth experiences, that I'm somehow past the effects of all that, but I'm not. They have shaped me into the person I am, for better or worse. I trust that God will use them to bring some redemptive benefits into this world however He sees fit.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Feel-Good Times At Feel Better Hospital

I can do this! No problem....
     Oh, the journey my volunteering work has taken me on! I was soooo hoping to volunteer on Labor and Delivery at Feel Better Hospital. It has not happened yet, nor do I think it ever will. The nursing director is a tad, well, spacey, and the nursing staff has no idea how useful a volunteer can be. One nurse told the volunteer coordinator, "Volunteers can't answer phones!" Oh, really?! What have I been doing all those years with that longish, rectangular thing that goes "brrring! brrring!" and when I hit "talk" someone's voice is heard through those little holes on the top of it?! Their loss, really. The painful part of the whole equation is the call I made to the volunteer coordinator at the hospital  (with a similar patient population) across town to see if and how they used volunteers on their labor and delivery ward. What she told me almost made me cry and salivate at the same time. It is truly remarkable and caters to volunteers with an interest in midwifery. Ohhh...sigh...if only it weren't the hospital that Julia was born at  and where Dr. XYZ works, I'd be there in a heartbeat.
However, after working on  your unit, I might be tempted to do this....
    Alas, it is not to be.
    However, the ebullient, charismatic director of nursing in Telemetry at FBH does have a vision for volunteers on her unit. And so, that is where I've been for a couple of hours on weekends. What adventures! Because of HIPAA, I'll provide rough sketches of some scenarios I've come across:
-the mind-numbingly exhausting deaf woman who was criticizing my sign language acquisition skills as she taught me how to finger spell my name....("No! You put your thumb up like this!")
-the food guy telling me that, in order to get mayonnaise and lettuce for my poor patient who's lunch never arrived, the nurse had to place an order into the computer...("You're new here, aren't you?" Well, it's more that I haven't figured out how to steal the tiny packets of mayo yet! "Where are the condiments, by the way?")
-taking the opportunity to distract a drug-seeking, demanding patient's wife to a smoking break, only to find myself pushing this wheelchair-bound woman around the hospital for someone with a lighter...
-singing hymns with an elderly "psych" patient loudly and cheerfully, and then having her ask me, "Are you black?" "Well, um, no. I'm white, last time I checked. When I tan, I get a little browner, but I'm still white."
-Hearing my poor mayo-starved patient heartily laugh at my comment about the "relationship" I had with mustard ("scant and rarely used") as I spread condiments on her sandwich that FINALLY included mayonnaise
-telling two bored, pesky patients, one of whom was bugging the nurse and doctor, that I'd take them down for a smoking break, but that they'd "better be good!" or they'd get me fired. "Oh, no, we'll be good!" And they were.
-Seeing a nurse smile and look at me, saying, "You're sweet" as I helped a man sit upright to eat his food
-Hearing a nurse say to me, "Thank you so much for your help. I told the nursing supervisor about you. You did so much more than I thought you would."
-Telling a patient that I didn't have a business card, as she requested, because "I'm just a volunteer." "Oh no, you're a lot more than a volunteer. Thank you so much for helping me today."
-Hearing many patients say, "You've been so sweet and helpful. Thank you so much." And really believing that they meant it.
-Leaving at the end of my short time each week, exhausted, spent, educated, and satisfied. Helping people in practical, tangible ways REALLY FEELS GOOD.
    Now, if I could just find a way to help pregnant women, their families, and the nurses that care for them....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Baby Steps and Pendants of Grace

     I took a baby step in my path to a nursing degree and then my midwifery degree (hopefully). I had the volunteer orientation at Feel Better Hospital in Big City today. Not too exciting or eventful, but necessary and the cafeteria food is tasty (they have diet Coke from the fountain, too!!!). It was the 2nd step on this path toward my new season of life and my career pursuit. Volunteering will not only look fabulous on nursing school applications, it will expose me to the hospital side of childbirth and put me into contact with nurses, midwives, and doctors who can guide, inform, and encourage me in my career ambitions. I'm putting myself in a great location and when all is said and done, so much about where you end up is who you know; "networking."
     Tomorrow I start with my first of four weeks at the Information Desk. I will then try out to the NICU "Cuddling" position where I get to hold preemies who need a loving, human touch. I'm also heading toward the Labor and Delivery Concierge where I get visitors refreshments, information, and ? etc. Both will be great spots to serve in. Perhaps I'll alternate between both positions. I'll see how everything unfolds.
     Tomorrow is Julia's 3rd birthday. That girl is a real kicker - literally! My Dad called her "irrepressible" and it is too true. She's really animated and fun. In her speech-delayed language, she plays with her dolls and acts out all sorts of scenarios that I don't quite understand. Yesterday she was making one of her dolls cry and it was hilarious.
My sweet and sassy Julia
     July 13th also brings back memories of her birth. In a sense, her birthday is also an anniversary of sorts. I feel relief that I'm three years away from that event that catapulted me into an inexplicably long season of grief, heartache, trauma, and just being a total mess. I think it was over 2  years before I began to feel more normal again. I will never be the same, however, but I think that the changes that have occurred in my heart, thinking, maturity and character are all profoundly good. God uses all things for his glory and simply put, I needed to be broken and put back together in a new, fresh, stronger way. Curiously enough, my scars have sort of become pendants of grace and strength. With all that I went through and experienced, I feel almost unmovable. Any tragedy that might come my way I feel totally prepared to handle. But God knows what the future holds and he is faithful.
     I'm revisiting that post I wrote regarding what I wished would've happened the morning Julia was born. and That story intrigues me, but I am confident that all that happened was carefully orchestrated to bring about the course of life I'm on right now. I feel God's peace and pleasure in this season of my life so clearly. Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?!

     So, after several conversations with different nursing friends, I decided to volunteer at, well, let's call it "Feel Better Hospital." I need to give it a pseudonym to get into the habit of thinking, HIPAA compliance, HIPAA compliance, gotta' always think about Almighty HIPAA compliance...
     So, I called up the Volunteer coordinator, then received an e-mail from her with attachments to fill out. After finishing the volunteer application, I then met with her. She e-mailed me saying that I needed to go to this certain website to fill out the paperwork electronically for my background check. A day later, she got back to me saying that I needed to proceed with the health clearance. OK. I then called the health office at FBH (Feel Better Hospital) and ask if I can come in to get my TB test. Umm...1 1/2 hours later, a TB shot, a urine drug screen, a trip to the building across the street for blood work, a quick stop by my car to feed the meter, then head over to yet another building for a physical exam by a doctor. Huh?! "I had a physical exam with my doctor about two months ago. Do I need another one?" Nod and serious look, "Yes." Ok. When the medical assistant brought me the gown and said, "Here, change into this..." I clarified that I could leave my undergarments on. I was NOT going to completely undress for a silly physical. He told me I didn't have to. Dr. Charming walked in and quickly determined that I had a pulse, didn't have pneumonia, and could walk and chew gum at the same time. Hooray! And, then, I went home, my arms bandaged from fluids going in and fluids going out.
     Yikes! I thought I was going in for a simple TB test. Tomorrow I return to FBH with proof of my negative TB test from my doctor's office done 4 months ago as well as the reading on my left forearm of this current test. Because, you see, they need a two-step TB test. Of course they do!
     But it's all okay. Hopefully I'll be volunteering on Labor and Delivery and Postpartum at FBH soon! And then the adventures will really begin!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Perhaps Necessity Determines Feasibility….

     In short order: it appears that our family need for a second income is propelling me in the direction that my intellect, curiosity, and passions are heading in anyway. Coincidence? I don’t know.
     The furlough days agreed upon by the Los Angeles Teachers Union and Los Angeles Unified School District have been financially challenging to our family budget. The declining enrollment starting several years back and the changeover from year-round schools to traditional schools is also pointing to one significant problem: a sharp drop in Tim’s income. He made tens of thousands of dollars less last year than in previous years.  For well over a decade excellent job opportunities were available and Tim took them. That hard working man of mine has always said, “Make hay while the sun shines.” Indeed it did and he did.
     The sun isn’t shining so brightly anymore.
     We’ve thought about all sorts of solutions to this impending problem; selling our house and moving out to a much less expensive area, or my returning to work full-time as a teacher, or even the nursing school option. The challenge with selling our home is that we’d have to move so far away to make an appreciable difference that Tim would hardly see the kids, we’d uproot our well-established, nurturing social lives, and we’d be farther from our aging fathers. None of these options seem wise.
     So, I thought about going back to work as a special education teacher. I spent years training for this field.  I called an advisor at my college and she was stumped. “Well, last year we made such  big program changes that you might have to take many classes over again.” When I compared the new requirements to my transcripts I counted about 12 classes I’d have to retake. In effect, redo all my credential coursework. And although I love teaching and working with kids, I really don’t feel inclined to take a job that limits me to a classroom full time away from my kids for a salary that would be mildly beneficial. With all of the cuts to every school district, the only jobs available for a new teacher would be the really rotten positions. Oh, no thanks! 
     We also thought about taking in a child or two for in-home daycare. The money, for the time and responsibility, is not significant. I feel weary at the prospect of being the full-time caregiver for an infant or toddler because that’s just about all I’ve done for the last 15+ years.  I would really NOT prefer to do that anymore at this point in my life. But, it still is a possibility and one I haven’t ruled out. 
     What seems most logical, for long-term flexibility (home school options), career options, and beneficial income possibilities is a nursing degree. Particularly, to advance on to a Masters of Science in Nurse-Midwifery. After much research on the internet I discovered that Cal State Fullerton has an exceptional, albeit competitive program. The total schooling and work experience to reach my goal would easily be about 8 years. Probably more. A couple of those years would be some intense time away from the girls. This is what weighs on my mind the most. However,  if I know that season has a clear beginning and an end, then I can prepare for that time. I know in the long run I will have greater flexibility as to when and how much I work while doing something that greatly interests me. I will also be  earning an income that is commensurate with our financial needs (raising six kids gets more expensive as they get older!) and that makes all the sacrifices more palpable. Tim and I see so many more benefits in this option than anything on the table currently.
     The biggest challenge for me at this point is finding a junior college where I can take the pre-requisite science classes I need to even apply for nursing school. In the Los Angeles area that is no small feat. Wow! All the junior colleges are impacted. I have a plan, though, and I have some promising prospects. The helpful thing about this direction is that Tim and I are in agreement and will take the plan one semester at a time. There is not a significant financial or time cost with taking one class a semester at a junior college. At any time we could decide to stop the whole process and not much will be lost.  I am trying to approach this new development in my life with a very open mind and a guarded heart.
     Much prayer and communication will continue. I know God is faithful. Whatever he has planned for me and our family he will bring to pass. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Too Late For Me?

     So I missed my calling. Years ago, as a nineteen year-old, I chose to pursue a career in teaching. I wasn't sure which career direction to pursue since law school had become quickly unappealing with 90 hour work weeks for a measly $30K a year. Besides, Los Angeles has too many lawyers anyway. (Sorry my lawyer friends - I don't mean you in particular). My mom was dying at the time as well and teaching seemed to be a secure job route that was somewhat appealing. I had no interest in medicine whatsoever. Blood-yuck. Body parts, especially mangled-totally gross. Bodily fluids - icky. Moaning, hurting, whining people - forget about it!
     And then I got pregnant with my 6th child. I knew she'd be my last. For some odd reason, I was intensely interested in all things pregnancy related. After she was born, her traumatic birth made me search high and low and far and wide for answers as to the medical nature of what happened. After reading countless posts from labor and delivery nurses, midwives, and obstetricians, as well as many books by birth professionals, I became intensely interested in pregnancy and childbirth, and women's health issues overall. How odd, it seemed. And yet my knowledge base grew and my interest in medical things increased significantly. This care and compassion toward women and their health issues became heightened in me. A woman would tell me an experience she had health -wise, or pregnancy and childbirth-wise, and I would be looking it up on the internet to understand more about it.
     I found myself looking into the nursing program at PCC and various doula programs. I started this blog. While continuing to read many websites and blogs about pregnancy and childbirth, I realized I would never have the patience or self-control to be a doula. I would be too tempted to speak up against dcotors and nurses about "suboptimal" care I felt my client was getting. But most of all....
     Once I saw a baby born I wouldn't be able to help myself. I would want to be those hands guiding that baby out, and encouraging the baby's father to be as involved as I could get him in catching his baby. I would want to help that woman and her husband own their birth experience as much as they could and be the guiding expertise and care in that woman's pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum period. It would be one of the greatest joys and challenges I would ever do on a regular basis. Not unlike motherhood in general, actually.
     And yet, it's too late for me. I've done extensive research on this issue as well. I'd have a couple of pre-req's at PCC, and then I'd enter their two year nursing program. Then, the Nizhoni Midwifery Institute would be another 3 intense years of midwifery training. The Nizhoni Institute, based in San Diego, is the only California Medical Board-approved midwife training school of its kind in the entire state.  I would want to be state certified and so I'd go there.
     However, these are all the reasons I don't ever foresee being a midwife:
1) Financial cost
2)Time Cost
3) Emotional Cost
4)Mental Cost
5)I have six daughters who need me to be present in their lives in all the ways mentioned above. I would not spend those costs on a career and sacrifice my daughters' well being and their needs. I don't pass judgement on woman who do choose careers - not at all. But that road is not for me. At least not now.
     I am open to all sorts of possibilities, however. You never know what the future might hold. For now, I'm holding my daughters close and putting their needs first. We'll see where my medical and women's health interests take me. In the big picture, whatever is meant to be will happen.