As a nurse, I know I will see many things. I know I’ll see many things that will trouble me or effect me emotionally. I have surprised even myself sometimes with what capacity I have to separate myself from my patients. Today that capacity really was tested. Part of my schooling includes working with the community. In the community today, I encountered a family situation that left my heart aching for my patient and angry that situations like hers still exist.
My patient, who I will call Amelia, was a legal-aged woman, who was in her 2nd trimester of pregnancy. Without any understanding of her history, I worked with my team through parts of her examination. I am not sure if it was my training that had me honing in on an uneasiness with my patient but I sensed she was very reluctant to be there with us. During the sonogram, she asked if she could listen to music through her headphones while we examined her. She was taking deep breaths and staring at the far wall, barely looking at us, fighting back tears. I watched the screen and identified the baby’s parts, watched its heart beating and my heart beated in unison. While the technician explained the next steps, I was troubled by her constant need to speak with her father. Her words and agreement did not match with her body language and when I asked if she wanted a moment to herself, she jumped at it all too quickly, but ran out to talk to her father.
I did not see her again until she was in the recovery room, post-op, but her healthcare team kept me up-to-date on the case as it progressed. She had received additional counseling as I was not the only one who felt her hesitation. The story went something along the lines of her father had coerced her into an abortion by threatening her financially and cutting her off from her family. I could sense she was stalling each step of the way, hoping and pleading with him to change his mind. Despite family counseling and given repeated options, she signed consents with her father standing over her.
Her recovery was heart-wrenching for the entire staff but our hands were tied and she was a “consenting” adult. I could only give her a hug and wipe her tears. I had no words in that moment. All I could think of in that this moment was that this choice will have a lifetime of repercussions for her emotionally and she would never be the same again. I felt anger that she felt this sense of hopelessness and lack of choices at the hands of her father whom she feared. I also ached for her and her baby.
I realize sometimes its hard separating myself emotionally from my patients but I have to, both professionally and as a courtesy, but its hard. It’s my emotions that brought me into the profession of nursing to begin with. Because I care, and because I want to care. Is it strange that I have to sometimes… NOT care?