Saturday, August 28, 2010

Emotional Involvement

Thursday I shadowed in the NICU. I really enjoyed it. The patients are smaller, as are the messes, a nurse isn't overwhelmed with patients, and except for the beeping of machines, it's so quiet. While my patients that day were not very rewarding (they had very poor prognoses), I imagine that over time, it would be amazing to see a baby that is very sick eventually be able to go home.

At the end of the day when we were going over our how our clinicals went, one of my fellow students started crying over a full-term, healthy baby that should not have ended up in the NICU. I had heard the same story, and several more possibly worse, but none of them touched my heart like they did hers. I had no problem dealing with these tiny, sick babies. I sat there while everyone got tears in their eyes and wasn't sure whether I should fake emotion or what, because I just...didn't feel anything. It was an interesting experience, and I said as much, but my instructor did not like such a cold, clinical use of the term.

I felt like a cold hearted terrible person, but then discussed it with a few of my friends. They suspected that it may be partially due to my biology/scientific background, and didn't think anything of it. After some reflection I realized that I can't put myself in the patient's or family's position because if I do I'll be a wreck, and no good to anyone. Some people are able to do that, but I am just not strong enough to carry someone else's emotions and my own.

It's emotionally important to someone, though, and the nurse needs to avoid talking to a patient/family member like you would a fellow medical professional. I think in that sort of environment it might be an asset to be able to be cold and clinical when necessary, as long as you know what to say to the patient and family. Whimpering puddles of sadness, as I can very easily be reduced to, are unable to do their jobs.

That said, the next day, I got teary over the first ultrasound of a baby I'd ever seen right along with the new parents. I guess for me it just depends on the situation.


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