National Anxiety Disorder
I spent an afternoon in the PACU at my hospital a few weeks ago and there’s been a nagging pain in my heart ever since. That day, we had an influx of young female patients: average age around 25, healthy, scheduled for smaller-scale orthopedic surgeries. Our surgeries ended early, so after my morning in the OR I headed to the PACU in hopes of better understanding how the recovery aspect of peri-operative service runs. In the midst of my learning, though, I came across a distressing realization: every single one of these young ladies was taking daily prescription pain-killers, anti-depressants and anti-anxiolytic medications. My first thought was that their pain must be the precursor to this cascade (chronic pain is debilitating which leads to depression which leads to feelings of hopelessness and anxiety). However, after rummaging through patient histories and speaking with PACU nurses, I changed my mind. Most of these elective surgeries were not a result of chronic, unbearable pain. Most of these surgeries were just joint annoyances or aesthetic disturbances. Most of these young woman had been taking these medications long before their orthopedic maladies surfaced.
What was going on here?
The question was still in my mind when an interesting article from USA TODAY popped up in my inbox the following day. It was delineating the dramatic spike in prescription drug overdose in middle-aged women. Was this a foreshadowing for these 25-30 year old ladies? I hope not. And I still don't know what's really at play here, but it did made me realize the importance of the nurse during these turbulent times. Sometimes what people need is not surgery or invasive procedures or diagnosis, but support. Real life support. The world today is busy. It's virtual. It's buzzing with information and leaving us all a bit overwhelmed. It's caused what has been dubbed a "national anxiety disorder." Each women has her own reasons and story as to why medication was needed, but a nurse can be invaluable to each and every one. There is no better person than a nurse to be a steady role model, helping hand and listening ear.
I didn't spend my afternoon learning about the PACU. Instead, I went from bed to bed and spoke with these women. I asked questions and then listened. Actively. I tried to better understand their conditions. I tried to be an advocate for their inner strength and ability to persevere. And though I probably did not change the lives of any of these women, at least I could be a provider who truly cared about their issues and their worth. And maybe I made them think, even for a brief moment, that there’s something better out there for them and they deserve to find it.
Waseem, Fatimah. (2013). Drug overdose deaths spike among middle-aged women. USA TODAY: Health ad Wellness. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/02/drug-overdose-deaths-women/2483169/