Wednesday, August 30, 2006
book reports: Cutting Remarks, Nursing America, and Forensic Nurse
Cutting Remarks: Insights and Recollections of a Surgeon
by Sidney M. Schwab
Dr. Schwab is a well-known blogger who has written a book reflecting on his medical career. I checked out his book after I read someplace that he lives in Western Washington - which is a dumb reason to pick up a book, but I really enjoyed it, so I'm glad that the reason presented itself. There is a stereotype that all surgeons think they're God and are assholes to the nurses, the med students, etc... but either Dr. Schwab is an exception to the rule, or he's in deep denial. He writes about events in his career with a sense of wonder and humility. And he's had a lot of events, including a stint overseas during the Vietnam War. Best of all, the man is FUNNY. I really liked this book and am now a devoted reader of his blog, too!
Nursing America: One Year Behind the Nursing Stations of an Inner-City Hospital
by Sandy Balfour
I was excited to read this book based on the description - I haven't had any experience with the nitty-gritty of nursing in an inner-city hospital and so I'd like to learn about it. But while Balfour did a great job of portraying the personalities and convictions of the nurses he shadowed in Memphis, he shied away from the medical details. For example, I was intrigued by the burn unit nurse who said, "I love to clean a dirty burn!" but there was no following description of what she would actually DO. However, Balfour did hit on some very serious and pertinent issues in nursing in a public hospital, such as the constant budget strain, race relations, noncompliant patients, and the stress of working under all of those pressures and more.
Forensic Nurse: The New Role of the Nurse in Law Enforcement
by Serita Stevens
This book was informative, but I didn't think it was very well written. I did learn a lot about an area of nursing I had previously not been aware of - forensic nursing. Forensic nurses contribute to law enforcement by collecting evidence and testifying in court. For example, a forensic nurse might examine a rape victim and testify about the evidence that she found at trial. Or an FN might examine a child or vulnerable adult when abuse is suspected, or even examine a corpse for evidence of homicide. The case examples were very interesting and did a great job of clarifying the role of the forensic nurse. However, the book could have used a tighter edit - it was kind of repetitive and I was distracted by the "political" remarks that the author made. I don't mean political as in about government politics, I mean political as in airing complaints about different factions in the nursing community. I found that a bit jarring. Overall, though, this book is worth a skim if you're interested in learning more about the field of forensic nursing.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
book report: Population 485
by Michael Perry
Perry is an author and humorist who moved back to his tiny hometown in Wisconsin after living in the Big City for years. He realized that he couldn't really be a native of the town without belonging to the fabric of the place in some way, so he joined the volunteer fire/medic department. He proceeds to tell the most vivid, heart-rending, detailed stories of his experiences with fires and accidents. There are very few EMTs or doctors or nurses or firefighters who have the advantage of being gifted writers as well... and so while I have read stories of fighting fires and saving lives (or not) before, I have never read anything like this.
The result is an incredibly touching book about a community, a guy, his family, and his coworkers. I highly, highly recommend it. Have kleenex nearby when you read it.
Labels: book reports
But before I turn back into my former lit major identity, I want to write some more about working with hospice patients. I know it's too early in my nursing student experience to declare what I want to do - but I really think I like working with people near the end of their lives. Putting that down in black & white sounds kind of morbid, but my most satisfying caregiving experiences have been with patients who are on hospice or about to die.
I've already written about Hospice Lady, who I think is just holding on because her children are going to come visit her soon. There was also Tired Lady, who went rapidly downhill and passed away peacefully in her sleep (my name for her refers to the fact that over the last week of her life, every time I asked her how she was feeling, she said "I'm just so tired." I think she was just done, you know?). I was one of her caregivers during that week and while it seemed obvious to me that she was going to die, her family and her doctor didn't seem to notice. Interestingly, her children called me every time she needed anything at all - help to the toilet, changing a soiled nightgown, eating some food (although they were successful in getting Tired Lady to come up with something that sounded good to eat), getting dressed, whatever. Of course I was glad to do all of it - but it was neat to have this moment of "aha! that's why I'm here! Her family is dealing with emotional stuff and baggage and can't just take care of her, so I will!"
And finally, the last couple days I took care of Bedridden Lady who was given less than a month to live... six months ago. She is basically unable to bear weight on her limbs and can barely speak, and spends most of her time in bed. I didn't do anything heroic while caring for her - I fed her and changed her and put lotion on her face and cleaned her mouth and put some moisture goo on her lips and opened the blinds when she gestured toward the window. And all I got in return was some smiles and a couple of "thank yous" - but that was more than enough.
I know a lot of people are creeped out by caring for patients who are near death - and even my husband has asked me if I'm setting myself up emotionally by getting attached to terminal patients. But I'm not. When Tired Lady passed away I felt relieved for her - she was just so tired, and now she can rest. And when Bedridden Lady and Hospice Lady pass on, I will be relieved for them, too. I will miss Hospice Lady but I know she's ready to die, and that death will not be a sad thing for her. And spending time with her near the end of her life has been a joy for me, and for her - I know because she tells me! It is really, really rewarding for me to be present with these people.
Who knows, I may end up feeling this excited about other areas of nursing as well. Which is why I won't make up my mind until I've been through all my clinical rotations... but I have to say, I'm really drawn toward hospice work.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
book report: The Stolen Child
by Keith Donohue
Every time I visited Amazon.com in the last several weeks, they tried to sell me this book. Finally I said to myself, "Fine, fine, I'll get it from the library."
Wow. For once, Amazon knew what I would like. This book is about a changeling - yes, a child who was stolen by hobgoblins and replaced with one of their own. The story is told in alternating chapters by the stolen child and by his hobgoblin replacement. Each of them feels alienated and lost - Original Henry bewildered by his new faerie life, and Imposter Henry trying to adjust to living in a human world but never forgetting his past as a goblin in the woods.
I thought it was particularly briliant to set this book in relatively modern times - one of the troubles that the goblin gang faces is the encroachment of human civilization on the woods that they call home. Imposter Henry's lifelong discomfort with the woods (will the goblins come back for him?) competes with his desire for a normal life in a house built in the new woodsy development.
This book doesn't really have an ending, exactly, but for once that is perfectly okay. Reading about the development of these two lives is enough. I can't wait to read what Donohue writes next.
Labels: book reports
A Veggie Venture
I wanted to make every recipe I saw on the front page of this foodie blog. I'll be back!
Monday, August 14, 2006
book report: Impossible Things and Inside Job
by Connie Willis
I read Bellwether by Connie Willis some time ago and liked it. So I thought Impossible Things, a collection of some of her short stories might be just the thing for me. And it was! I really enjoyed every single one of the stories in this collection, which is very unusual for a book of short stories. I know I've griped about collections before, that some of the stories are good and some are bad and some are just whatever... but I honestly thought this book was solid all the way through.
I think maybe I should stick to her collections and not try to read her novellas as stand-alone pieces. I checked out Inside Job based on a description of the material - professional debunkers encounter a "spiritual leader" who appears to be channeling a real spirit - but it was so short! I read it in a blink of an eye! Which isn't to say it was bad at all... I just wanted to enjoy it a little longer.
book report: Son of a Witch
by Gregory Maguire
I wrote about the predecessor to this book, Wicked, a while ago. And at that time I happily noted that there was a sequel. And here it is!
The focus of this book is, obviously, Elphaba's son Liir. After Dorothy inadvertantly kills Elphaba and her whole party troops back to see the Wizard to get their heart's desires granted, Liir is left aimlessly wandering in the Emerald City. He decides he wants to find Noor, his (maybe) half-sister who was taken away by the army before Elphaba's death. This tentative goal leads Liir into all kinds of odd circumstances, eventually landing him badly injured and unconscious on the plains of the Vinkus. He is found by a travel guide and handed over to the nuns at the same nunnery where Elphaba took refuge during her pregnancy. The nuns tend him, giving most of the responsibility for his care to a mute girl named Candle, who tends to him and plays music to draw him back to consciousness.
I didn't like this sequel as much as I liked Wicked. Liir is not as compelling a character as Elphaba was, partly because he is practically an empty vessel, and partly because I didn't have a mental image of him already in place because he wasn't in the Wizard of Oz movie. Perhaps a failure of imagination on my part, I don't know. Anyway, I was intrigued by Liir's story and the experiences that he had, and I especially liked the very last paragraph of the book - but I just wasn't as riveted by Son of a Witch as I was by Wicked.
Labels: book reports
Monday, August 07, 2006
We've been kicking around the idea of either selling this house and buying a bigger/nicer/more conveniently located house, or doing a huge remodel of this house. While the idea of doing a huge remodel is kind of daunting (who wants to live in an apartment for 6 months while strangers tear up their house with jigsaws and sledgehammers?), I kind of loved the idea of getting exactly what we wanted at the end. Not only would we add bedrooms and a full bathroom and all that... we would get to take care of a lot of the little details, like putting linoleum in the kicthen and refinishing the hardwood floors. And we could get a bathtub that is actually comfortable. And I could have a windowseat in my bedroom for reading.
But now R* is saying that it would be more cost-effective in the long run to buy a new house instead. I don't even pretend to understand real-estate investing, but I think he was saying that because we live in a not-as-nice neighborhood, the value of our remodeled house would never go up enough to get our investment back. Whereas starting fresh with a new house would allow us to make incremental improvements and build more equity. Or something like that? Anyway, I feel surprisingly sad about the idea of not remodeling our current house. I thought it was going to be so cool to get to redo things in exactly the way we wanted. And while I LOVE house shopping, I know there's no way that we'll find a perfect house that has everything I want. It's just not possible. I guess that's life, eh? I'm sure we'll eventually find a place that we love, and over time we'll make it into our home. I suspect that our next house will be our long-term home, so we'll have time to do what we want with it. And then when we get old and retire, R* can get his wish of buying a snazzy condo and living downtown. :)
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
weekend in middle of week
In other news, the less-than-competent Boss Lady at the Old People Hotel got canned this week, and one of my fellow CNAs got promoted into her job. So I think my work schedule will get more tolerable and consistent soon. In fact, she called me today to let me know that I'm scheduled to work Thursday through Sunday, and that she was putting me on my favorite section all four days. So I'll be able to work with my favorite residents, including my hospice patient. Consistency is good.
I met briefly with a couple of my nursing school classmates on Sunday - we allegedly were going to start studying pharmacology, but we mostly ended up talking. We did pages through our pharm text and the drug guide, but decided that it would be much more useful to actually have a syllabus in hand before we tried to figure out where to begin. It was really nice to see my friends - it's actually been kind of difficult emotionally to be away from them after being so close for 10 weeks. It's nice to feel like I belong - I'm not much of a "joiner" so that's kind of an unusual feeling for me!