Being a nurse practitioner in a very busy family practice can be rewarding, gratifying, and wonderful, and it can also be demanding, stressful, and exhausting.
One day last week, we had a particularly busy day. It was our half day, so we were supposed to close at noon. I had around 18 appointments already scheduled for the (half) day, and that wasn’t taking into consideration the walk-ins that would inevitably arrive. In total, I ended up seeing around 22 or 24 before lunch that day. After I finished seeing patients in the clinic, I needed to run to the bank, grab some quick lunch, then head to the nursing home to see our patients there. Between my overseeing physician and myself, we probably saw around 40 patients that afternoon. At one point, I had to leave to go pick up my three year old son and take him to my parents’ house until I could get finished at the nursing home to go get his sister from my in-laws and finally pick him up to take him home for the evening. All in all, I was home around 7pm.
Having said all that, I was exhausted by the time I got home.
Alone in my car, between picking up my kids, I reflected on the extremely trying day I had had. I felt like I had dedicated all my time and energy to all these people, and only had leftovers for the most important people in my life: my husband, son, and daughter. I began to cry. I had tears of guilt, of doubt, of sadness. I wanted so badly to call someone and tell them how I was feeling, but ashamed to do so for fear of sounding like a big whiny baby. I felt guilty for knowing how much precious time I was missing with my children. I was doubting myself as a mother– should I find a way to stay at home? Could we survive on just one income? I felt sad knowing that time slows down for no one, and that this whirlwind of my life cannot be done over again.
Then, I took a big deep breath and redirected myself.
Everyone has a story. Every single patient I had today has some type of struggle. It’s life. My struggles are real, my feelings are legitimate, but I am okay. I love my job. I love my patients. Not every day is like this. I am home every evening for supper, and bath time, and story time. I am off every weekend, every holiday. I am blessed to have the talents to help my husband provide for our family. I am richly blessed with family members who I know are loving, wonderful mentors for my children when I am at work.
After I got over my personal pity party, I started wondering what stories I would hear if I could hear the worries of my patients and other people in my life. I reflected over the people I interact with every day, and I imagined these scenarios.
Patient #1: Female. 72 years old. Needed routine medications refilled.
“Hi, Mrs. H. What can I do for you today?” I may have asked her.
If she had said what she was really thinking, it may have been something like this:
“Well, I need my blood pressure medication refilled. I also need you to give me the energy and strength to get through this day. My husband with Alzheimer’s dementia is in the hospital again, and my children live out of state and can’t come home to help take care of him. I’m not sure how much longer I can go on.”
Patient #2: Male. 51 years old. Has sinus infection.
I may have asked him, “Mr. M., how long has this infection been bothering you?”
If he was sharing his true feelings, he may have said, “Well, my infection has only been going on about a week, but my wife and I have been struggling with our 23 year old son for seven years now. He has been struggling with alcohol and drug addiction for that long, and is in and out of jail more than you know. He stole my wife’s ring that her grandmother gave her when she was a child to pawn it for drug money last week. I’m ashamed to look at my own son.”
Patient #3: Female. 17 years old. Right ankle pain.
Me: “Miss R., how did you hurt your ankle?”
She could have responded this way, “I twisted it in basketball practice. I’ve been working so hard at practice to get a scholarship because my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer 6 months ago, and we can’t afford to pay for college. I’ve been practicing basketball every day, trying to keep my grades up, and helping my mom carry my dad back and forth to chemo and doctor’s appointments. I really just need a break, but more importantly, a cure for my dad. He’d really want me to go to college. This is too much for me. I’m just a kid.”
Patient #4 Male. 91 years old. Complaining of increased forgetfulness.
Accompanied by his adult son, who he asked to stay in the lobby during his exam.
“Mr. S., tell me about what’s going on with you today.”
In reality, he simply said he’s gotten a little more forgetful recently. He could have said this: “I just lost my wife of 63 years. She helped me with everything. She did the cooking, the cleaning. I’ve never done laundry in my life. But worst of all, I miss my best friend. I’m losing my mind because I’m sick with grief.”
There’s always more than meets the eye. There’s always more to the story. There’s always something you may not know about me, or your best friend, or that stranger in the check-out line in front of you.
Next time I start drowning in my own sorrow, or wishing this or that was different in my own life, I will think about others.
More importantly, I will think about my Heavenly Father and the sacrifice he made by sending His son to die on the cross of Calvary that I might spend eternity with him someday if I am obedient to His word. (Matthew 7:21: “Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven.)
I will think about bearing one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2: Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.)
I will think about counting my blessings. (Psalm 103:2: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits)
I will think about Heaven, and how this will all be worth it someday. (Hebrews 10:35-36: Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.)