After starting my week with 3 straight days of yoga, I ended my week with 3 straight days of work. (If you’re wondering how that’s possible, it’s because I worked part of the weekend.) Although this yoga thing is still new to me, it’s already getting in my head! But I mean that in a good way.
I will explain.
This week at work SUCKED. There’s no other way to describe it. As an ICU nurse, I take care of one very sick patient all day long, which means that I’m in the room with their family for 12 straight hours. In other parts of the hospital, where patients are not critically ill, a nurse has a few different patients to care for, and has to split her time between them. While that is challenging in its own way, this week’s major challenge for me was dealing with the family of my sick little patient for 12 long hours every day. This was my only patient, and there was no escape.
Simply put, my patient’s father has an anger problem. The poor man, who I’m sure was stressed out of his mind and super worried about his daughter, took all of that stress and worry out on me for 3 straight days. He yelled, he swore, he got into my space while I was trying to do procedures that would help stabilize his daughter. This man was rude, aggressive and inappropriate. He made it harder for me to do my job, he yelled at his wife, he yelled at the RTs, he treated all of us with disrespect.
I can honestly tell you that at one point, while I was administering extra oxygen and helping my little patient to breathe, watching her vital signs dip and troubleshooting the situation, suctioning with one hand, bagging with the other, with the patient’s father yelling at me the whole time as if somehow that’s going to help me concentrate, I could hear the yoga instructor from my YouTube videos saying “Breathe in, breathe out. You are strong.”
I’m crouching over my patient to suction her, trying to avoid the spit coming out of her father’s mouth as he yells pretty much directly into my ear… “Suction her! What are you fucking doing? You need to go deeper! She needs oxygen! Ahhh, tabernac! Stop touching her! You’re making it worse! Ostie de merde!” I’d say something back if I wasn’t so busy trying to help his daughter breathe.
“Find your center, plant your feet into the ground and stay in this pose. You are strong.” Ahhh, yes. I am strong. My patient’s vitals are improving. She’s starting to stabilize again. I step back from the bedside, turn and look the father in the face. He’s swearing at me, half in English and half in French, telling me how to do my job and berating me. If I was a little less strong, I would yell back at him. “I’ve been doing this for 5 years. I know how to treat children with this disease, I promise you, this is not my first rodeo.” I would tell him to back off, or call security and have him escorted out of the ICU. I don’t feel like dealing with this shit anymore. I need to focus on my job, I need to be able to help this man’s daughter get well without dealing with the constant distraction of having him all up in my space!! Take a deep breath in and find your center.
The truth is, this man is afraid. He is yelling because he doesn’t know what else to do. He is worried for his daughter’s life. And while I have every right to throw him out of the room, and some nurses would have, I try to remember that I am the one who’s strong, he is the one in a weakened position. Why humiliate him by kicking him out of the ICU? This will only make him more angry. Why argue with him? Take a deep breath, maintain your calm, look this man in the eye, and reassure him.
This was one of those weeks when the mantras I use to get myself through a run or a workout started popping into my head and helping me through a day at work. I can do hard things. Relax, find your center, you are strong. Sometimes I think working out and running are even more important for my mental health than my physical health. I wonder, if I didn’t learn to stay calm and focused during a run or a visit to the gym, would I have the same focus in other parts of my life? Do I work out for my body, or is it really for my mind? Probably a little of both, but this week, it was my mind that needed that discipline, and I was so glad that I could dig deep and find it.