The bestselling author of A Nurse's Story is back with more insider stories.
Tilda Shalof has been a caregiver all her life -- at home for her family, at work for strangers -- but her skills didn't come easily. From when she was a child taking care of her sick parents to her current position on an ICU team in one of Canada's largest hospitals, there have always been daunting challenges and worthy rewards for her work. With her trademark humour, unflinching honesty, and skilled storytelling, Shalof describes her experiences becoming the capable nurse she is today.
After graduation from nurse's college, finding no jobs in Toronto, Shalof travelled to Tel Aviv, Israel, to work in a hospital for the first time, finding adventure and young love in the process. A summer stint as a camp nurse came with requests for condoms, strange allergies ("Misty has reactions, but we don't know to what"), and overly protective parents (also known as "helicopter parents" for their tendency to hover over their children). The Making of a Nurse contains these stories and much more, and they are comforting, entertaining, shocking, funny, heart-warming and heart-wrenching. From hospitals to home care, they will give readers a glimpse into the life of a nurse and the hidden medical world.
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McClelland & Stewart
March 23, 2008
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Excerpt from The Making of a Nurse by Tilda Shalof
My patient's name is Joe, or so he says, and I am his nurse. His chart states his name as Zbigniew Zwiezynskow and under place of residence, there is merely a sad trio of letters: NFA -- "no fixed address." He's in his mid-forties, admitted last night to the Intensive Care Unit, the ICU, with pneumonia. He's feverish, delirious, and so violent that he may try to kill me if I decide to release him from the restraints we've placed on his arms and legs. Medically, his condition is improving -- no small thing here in the ICU, where all of the patients have life-threatening, catastrophic illnesses. We're full; each of our twenty-two beds is occupied. Attached to every patient are monitors, machines, and equipment and in every room there are sickening odours and horrific sights, but I hardly notice these things any more. I have learned how to go beyond it all, to see through it, push it gently aside and go straight to the person lying there in the bed.
Today, all day, Joe is my patient. His heartbeats, urine output, breaths, cough, skin, dirty fingernails, and wild, greasy hair are all my concern. I will enter his world and for the next twelve hours, minute by minute, I will dwell with him there.
It's taken me such a long time to get here.
The sheer math astounds me. Since becoming a nurse in 1983, I have put in thousands of twelve-hour shifts at many different hospitals. I have worked with thousands of nurses and hundreds of doctors and other professionals. I have taken care of tens of thousands of patients ranging in age from eight to 104 who have had a multitude of diseases, illnesses, and injuries, and have administered to them a sea of intravenous fluids, rivers of syrups, suspensions, injectable medications, and at least a million pills, capsules, and tablets. Researchers study large populations, searching for patterns and trends, but the only way I know how to practise as a nurse is one patient at a time, seeing each individual in my care through illness, loss, pain, grief, or the prospect of death. For me, each time, the numbers all come down to one. As a nurse, there is the patient I am caring for and together, we proceed, one on one, side by side.
It wasn't always like this. Even though I was practically born a nurse, with strong instincts to help others, I was raw and unskilled; I had to be made into one. But long before it became my livelihood, taking care of others was my way of life. You could say I practised as an amateur for many years before going professional. My mother was my first patient and I cannot recall a time when I did not know it was my job to be her nurse. I was six years old when she first became ill, but as my father always said, I was very mature for my age.