Its 8 am Monday morning and for a dialysis nurse like me, today is a new chance to save a life.
I have a four hour date with Anne*, a 23 year old patient with End Stage Renal Disease. Then she will be back on Friday, two days a week for the rest of her life, unless she is lucky enough to receive a kidney transplant.
Today, she arrives with her usual smile, and then settles into one of the LA-Z boys (recliners) in the room. Propping her right arm, she allows me to insert two needles into the blood vessels near her wrist. For the next four hours, the dialysis machine will remove wastes and excess fluids from Anne’s blood.
Anne’s kidneys failed when she was 21. For now, dialysis keeps her alive.
I remember when I was a student nurse and my biggest worry was, like, if I’d pass my quiz, or if I’d get to home early for a “gimik” on that day. Now that I’m practicing it, being a nurse is totally puffed up.
I mean, don’t be fooled by all the hot shoes and the great compensation and the no clinical instructors telling you what to do. Nursing is responsibility.
Nurses have to be in places and do things and earn a living and pay the rent. If you’re training to be a dialysis nurse like me, an 8 hour shift, six days a week, 25 chronic hemodialysis patients, priming the machine, slipping two needles into the blood vessels and monitoring every 30 minutes. Hello? Talk about responsibility.
Responsibility, it really does suck.
As nurses, there are so many things we have to know. We have to know how to take care of our patients and how to take care of each other. Eventually, we have to figure out how to take care of ourselves. As nurses, we have to be fully armored. Because when we aren’t, people die and lawsuits happen. Sucks isn’t it?
Some days there are potentially “toxic” events on dialysis session. Like someone’s blood pressure drops (hypotension); someone else become short of breath; or a blood line disconnected. There are days when it’s
difficult to just smile especially on a bad day.
Besides medical care, a dialysis nurse also tends to the emotional and social needs of their patients. Anne would sometimes talk about her problems, love problems in particular. I’m really good at it now you know. You just glance at the patient once in a while, nod when you’re supposed to nod, and say. “Yes, I see”, when
It is when a patient would come up to me to talk about their problems that I see my own life from a different perspective. I suddenly realized that, “hey, these people have got it worse than I do.” These people have to bear being punctured by two one-and-a-quarter-inch long, large bore needles. Suddenly my problems seem to be petty compared to the problems of my patients.
Responsibility, it really does suck sometimes. It can’t be avoided. Either someone makes us face it. Or we suffer the consequences.
And still, being a dialysis nurse has its perks.
I mean the shoes, the compensation, and the no clinical instructors telling you what to do. That’s pretty damn good.
*not her real name