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Nursing While Heartbroken…A Very Difficult Task

Published March 14, 2011 3:55 PM by Abbye Caplan
I've gotten into the habit of praying on the bus on my way to work, not for spiritual or religious reasons, but simply praying that my patient assignment for the day will be manageable, or that I will have time to use the bathroom at least once in 12 hours, and maybe even get a snack in if I'm lucky. I started doing this on orientation as a way to mentally prepare myself for my day. 

My boyfriend (ex) and I broke up last week. I was worried about how I would function as a nurse going through with something so heartbreaking and personal being so fresh in my mind.  One day after this emotional split, I had to go back to work.  I got on the bus with dark sunglasses, tissues and Visine (no mascara), hoping that the crying would stop by 6:36 A.M, my usual arrival time at the hospital. I knew this particular morning would require some prayer and lots of deep breathing. With my eyes closed and hidden behind dark glasses, I prayed; I better not run into my ex (who is a nurse at the same hospital), I will not cry, I hope the charge nurse will be nice to me and give me an "easy" patient assignment.

My assignment for the day was absolutely awful. I had a nursing student shadowing me (poor thing!). Patient 1 was very unstable and required multiple blood transfusions. Patient 2 was transferred from the ICU (at 7:30, during change of shift) to hospice and given a few more days to live. Patient 3 kept telling me she missed me and needed me there for emotional support when she went to the bathroom (why, lady ?!?!). Patient 4 was a gunshot victim in police custody who required a lot of teaching before he was able to be discharged to prison. Patient 5 was a sweet and lonely guy who just loved to chat and was almost impossible to escape. On this particular day, even the smallest tasks seemed challenging. I wasn't interested in conversation, my stress level was through the roof, and I was either crying or fighting back tears.

 I finally went to my charge nurse and broke down.

I let her know about everything that I was going through. From that moment on the charge nurse and my other co-workers really stepped up and helped me get through my day. I was so thankful for all the support, especially because I wasn't expecting it.  I developed a whole new respect for my co-workers.

So, I can officially say this day was my worst day so far as a nurse. I ended up with a chaotic patient assignment, crying in patients' rooms (and many other places, hey, I'm only human). It was a true challenge to focus and make it through the day, but I did it.

And most importantly, I didn't run into my ex.
posted by Abbye Caplan


I think we do our patients a diservice when we don't take care of ourselves first. This young nurse should have been sent home as soon as she told her charge nurse what was happening with her. Yes, her coworkers helped her out, but they could have done that better by supporting the patients that needed care by sending home a nurse who was not capable of working to her full potential.

Lorraine Collins March 24, 2011 9:44 AM

I applaud you for having the courage and strength to continue to perform your job as an RN during this emotional time. It shows true character that you didn't just call out that day or "play" sick on shift. I am also happy to hear that your coworkers were there for you when you needed it most.

Heather Jones March 20, 2011 10:11 AM

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