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Living and Dying: A journey on the same road

Published March 14, 2012 1:01 AM by Lorenzo Ortega

Wow, with six weeks of clinical done, I stand here at this moment finished with a rotation of pediatrics that came and went in an instant. This semester has given me a peak into the nursing wardrobe, thrusting upon me the reality of a 12-hour shift.  Sore feet and stiff back aside, the grid of a 12-hour day, surprisingly, passes by with little friction, quicker than one would imagine.

In retrospect, my experience has challenged me to become accountable for nursing skills, relay report of clinical findings, and improvement on the ever infamous, forever rigorous task of charting. When I think about my clinical competency, I can’t wait for the wave of improvement that will splash my way in my next semester, my fourth semester, my final semester. I could not be more excited.

My experience in school thus far has made me realize that I am meant for the ICU. The physicality that comes from a med-surg floor allows one to prioritize, building necessary skills, but in my eyes, it limits the involvement in a patient’s case. After having critical care rotations last semester, the culture of the ICU departments come second to none, suiting my style of comprehensive care. I enjoy diving deep into the heart of pathophysiology, interpreting lab values, and analyzing multisystem disease processes in attempt to correct the patient behind it all; there always is a patient behind it all. Even in times where Mr. Johnson or Mrs. Smith can’t respond back to the nurse’s comments, there is a history, a past, and a future in that patient, whether that means returning to the word healthy, or whether their legacy will be lived on through family or other loved ones.

Having this as my goal, my thoughts lead me into a conversation we had at our last clinical meeting about death and dying. Death itself fascinates me. As human beings we live on this earth for an unknown reason, many of us exposed to unspeakable pain and suffering, but all of us suffering in some way. Do we live to live or do we live to die? I think this is a question to embrace, especially for myself choosing a career in the ICU. In a way I find a strange connection with the patients in ICU beds because every second we live is really one second closer to death- a true definition that equalizes us at the very core. So when I look at a patient, intubated, non-responsive, and “on their way out,” as some more disconnected might say, I see something completely different. I see the life that was and the life that is; a fellow human being, still traveling on the same path as the rest of us, trying to get by just one more day. I think the fragility of life in the ICU is humbling. It shows the strength of human beings and at the same time shows the vulnerability. I look forward to learning more in the next few months, but now the time is to finish this semester strong and continue to absorb information as I travel along on my journey.  

posted by Lorenzo Ortega

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