On our way to work, we don’t know who or what we may encounter; we don’t know if we’ll work a code, comfort a family torn apart by tragedy, or hear that long last acquiescent gasp of life and its deditious release.
We confront disease, fighting these processes vivaciously as they extirpate human bodies, wreck psyches, and muddle faith.
And – whilst doing this – we’re abused. Often, our patients are pugnacious, demanding, and unforgiving, spewing radioactive memes into the proverbial atmosphere, mutating our demeanor and behavior.
Our job isn’t easy, we’re outliers: roughnecks.
Over time, our skin hardens.
Our epidermis transforms, changes, becomes crocodilian. Our personalities change, we begin oozing primordial mettle, a trait we’ve always carried, yet hadn’t developed.
And, in the end, our souls transmute, we lose our naïveté and innocence.
At times, I can feel the composite material of my demeanor coagulate and harden, a process which has made it difficult for me to sometimes recognize suffering.
I, like all of you, wear emotional Kevlar, a tool geared towards self-preservation, a coping mechanism designed to keep the sane from insanity.
It is important for us to protect ourselves, mentally and physically.
We must at times, disassociate, disengage, and rely on automation rather than cognition.
If we’re not careful, we’ll become fatigued; our compassion will vaporize.
We mustn’t become indifferent caregivers, pill passing automatons, and ambivalent actors just biding our time.
We’re better than that. We’re nurses.
Periodically, we must remove our Kevlar and molt, giving way to emotional rebirth.
As we’re rising from the ashes, we’ll be singed by suffering.
We mustn’t reject it, but embrace it, bathe in it. If we want to be effective caregivers, we must be able empathize with our patients and try to feel a tinge of what they’re feeling, however miserable.
Clearly, this isn’t easy; in time, we all suffer from compassion fatigue.
It’s difficult to prevent and overcome, but remember, when fatigued, you’re not alone.