Meet an LDS Nurse: WHO Year of the NURSE and Midwife

Guest post by Lillian.

Lillian was generous enough to engage in a question and answer interview rather that supply a traditional post. She has lived in all regions of the US. She currently works as SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner). She enjoys crafting, swimming with her children, and watching movies with her spouse.

 

Do you remember any nurses from your childhood who might have had an influence on your choice of career? 

 

My mother became a nurse much later in life, and I saw the impact it had in her life, and the ability she had to provide for our family. She encouraged me to follow in her footsteps, but I was stubborn and held out for a few years.

 

What made you decide to become a nurse?

 

I wanted the knowledge and training to help people who are suffering. 

 

What was the hardest thing for you when you first started in the profession? What is one of the most challenging things now? 

 

Learning how to talk to physicians. I worked the night shift and if you needed to wake up a sleeping physician, there was prep work to ensure you had all the information in front of you that they would ask about, and utilize a format (SBAR) that was easy to understand. Depending on the location and department I’ve worked, the interaction and relationships between physicians and nurses has been drastically different. After transitioning to the role of the SANE, and not bedside nurse, my recommendations and assessment skills are treated as expert interpretation.


Do you have a spiritual connection to nursing? Have you had any spiritual experiences in your work that you feel like you could share? 

 

There have been multiple times that I have truly felt like a vessel, and present for the sole purpose to comfort and reinforce unconditional love to the patients I serve. I get to tell a young female patient that even though I found visible signs of injury from her sexual assault, no one else (outside of a Gynecologist) will ever be able to tell, and “virginity” is not something that can be taken from her. I literally get to be a shoulder to cry on, and be the physical presence of the comforter they need.


Is there something people always ask of you about your profession? Tell us about it. 

 

I am often asked if I like my job and how I got started. I have always tried to be open to opportunities as they arise. After completing my first evidence collection, I felt very inadequate, so when they offered SANE training, I jumped at the opportunity to have the education to better serve my patients. 

 

I really do love my job! I get to work with kids (and sometimes adults) to provide comprehensive and compassionate care to those when they need it most. I always joke that I prefer working with children because they have a reason to be immature, and are less likely to hit me!

 

What inspires you when you are feeling challenged in your work?

 

I have found that when I start feeling burned out or frustrated that I have to leave my family to see a patient during an important event, that patient quickly reminds me WHY I chose to be a SANE. It is the enthusiastic embrace from a 3-year-old that is covered in bruises, as soon as I open the exam room door. It is the teenage girl that breaks down and cries when she realized someone believes her. It is the mother who told me, “I know they are calling nurses heroes, but tonight you were truly the hero for our family.” It is getting the text from the District Attorney, with a picture of them hugging my patient, and the news of an appropriate sentence for their perpetrator.

 

How has nursing changed before and after COVID19? 

 

There is more of an emphasis on personal protection than I have seen in the past.  Nurses are putting their own protection (from possible pathogens) as the priority which goes against the “selfless” approach that many of us have grown accustomed to. I have been radiated during codes because I knew the patient needed medication as soon as possible, and stepping outside of the room while they X-ray would delay care, it was an easy choice to take the risk of transient radiation if it meant helping my patient. In recent years, there has been more of an emphasis on self-care for nurses. I believe this is a change in culture from the expectation of woman (since that is the majority of nursing) always being selfless, which results in burn out. For the hospital as a whole, the air is tense. When I used to high-five, smile, and embrace one another, now I cannot see the smiles behind the masks and COVID has stolen hugs from those people that I depended on for support.

 

What does it feel like knowing that you saved or helped save lives? Is there a spiritual aspect to this?

 

Throughout my career, there are patients that will always stay with you, but for very different reasons. The first time I did chest compressions, it was on a teenage boy, who’s mother was at the bedside. Our team that day worked like a well-oiled machine, using the PALS algorithms and coordinating medication administration and defibrillation to attempt to bring him back. When the physician recognized our attempts were futile, he instructed the mother we would do another 2-minute round and reassess on whether we should continue. She bent down, and calmly encouraged him to come back, but that she loved him and understood. There was not a dry eye in the room as we all struggled to maintain composure while we continued chest compressions on this sweet boy. After time of death was called, his mother stayed in the room and told me about their conversation that morning, how she let him drive to football practice even though he didn’t have his license yet, and her favorite things about him. As I began cleaning him, I felt prompted to ask the mother if she wanted to help. Her eyes lit up and she reached out for the washcloth I held out. Together we cleaned his body and I listened to more stories about this boy’s life, from the genuine perspective of a mother. Even though we didn’t save his life, I was present for possibly the worst day of this mother’s life, and listened to promptings of the spirit that helped me to recognize ways I could still help.

 

The first time I had to collect evidence for a sexual assault exam, I was terrified of messing something up. My teenage patient was calm, polite, and as I walked them to the exit, they stopped, turned, gave me the sweetest hug, and thanked me. It was at that moment that I recognized the impact this type of nursing could have. 

 

As a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), I am not the type of nurse any patient looks forward to seeing. I am called in when patients have been assaulted and are physically and emotionally traumatized. This is heightened when children are abused. Many think it is odd that I feel called to this aspect of nursing, but I feel like there is no greater example of Christ-like love than caring for the most vulnerable in their greatest time of need. 

 

What advice would you give to someone who is considering studying nursing?

 

Recognize that nursing is not a sprint, it is a marathon. There will be times throughout your career that you will feel unprepared and doubt your training, feel defeated, or want to give up. There are also several different avenues of nursing, so do not get discouraged. I have been blessed to gain friendships with fellow nurses that have carried me through some of the darkest times in my life. The feeling of knowing you made a right decision, stopping something harmful from happening, and having a patient thank you for taking care of them, makes it all worth it.

 

What is the best thing about being a nurse? 

 

The empowerment of knowing someone trusts you to care for them, when they need you most. Nurses are able to fill a need, when our patients are the most vulnerable, and show kindness and love without bias.

 

 

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4 Responses

  1. Spunky says:

    Thank you so very much for this post, Lillian. I confess I didn’t know that there were sexual assault nurses, but I am so glad there are. I’m humbled by your experience and your generosity in sharing this part of your life with us. You make me proud to be a Mormon woman and inspire me to be better.

  2. Thank you for sharing these experiences with us. I appreciated this look into your professional life.

  3. EmilyCC says:

    I love your story about being with a mother after her son died. How lovely that you could share that gift with her of cleaning her son one last time.

  4. Heather says:

    Oh this was so powerful. You must carry some very heavy burdens, doing what you do. Thank you.

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