It's happening again. My stomach is in knots, my heart is pounding in my chest, my palms are sweating, my mouth is dry, and I think my vision is beginning to blur....
There is a time for every human being to pass from this life. These events may be expected or traumatic in nature. No matter the circumstances, odds are that at some point in your nursing career you will be faced with a patient who is preparing to die under your care.
As a kid, I wanted to be a portrait painter. Then an archeologist. Then, for a very brief spell, a news anchorwoman. Never once did I consider taking on my mother's profession. No glamour there. No romance or undercover mystery in nursing. I'd been lugging dolls around since I could walk, changing their unsoiled doll diapers, and spooning imaginary doll food to their plastic lips. I assumed that nursing, the work my mom did, was something akin to this. Having recently graduated from print to cursive and already reading chapter books, I was fairly convinced that I could be a nurse right then myself, if only I felt like it (which I most certainly didn't).
How many rights does it really take to keep from making a wrong? Sometimes your medication administration procedures can feel a bit like running a maze. You think the object of the game is to get through as quickly as possible and feel certain you can see the way out just ahead. The problem is, mazes are tricky. One wrong turn can change a normal shift into a nightmare of consequences.
Several years ago I did a favor for a friend. I worked a few nights as a private duty nurse to her father who was dying of cancer.
While the Tanzanian nurses at Tumbi Hospital have accepted me graciously, they don't entirely understand why I'm here. They know I am an American nurse-midwife and that I will be staying with them at Tumbi's Reproductive and Child Health clinic for six months.
Dr. R crosses through the doorway and places a sheet of white printer paper on my desk. "Can you tell me about this?" I scan the document. It is an ultrasound report depicting an upside-down stick figure floating within a globular scribble. The handwritten words "viable pregnancy, 13 weeks plus five days" serve as a label.
In This Issue
Liz Di Bernardo