I spent a few days this past week working per diem at a facility on the Texas border (8 hours from home). I have a few possible opportunities pending at home, but I wasn’t able to find any local per diem shifts to work while waiting for one of them to come to fruition.
I made the decision with a little trepidation, but I felt full-fledged regret once I committed to the shifts. I felt dread at leaving home again. I had promised Wookie, my husband, and myself that I would not be working anywhere that required a suitcase. I could see Wookie’s nervousness when I drug it out of the closet and began packing. I cried most of the 8 hour drive to the border due to feelings of complete sadness, and to be honest, a little hopelessness.
My commitment was for 3 double shifts (0600-2200). It was probably over ambitious, but the allure of working 48 hours in 3 days, then going home, enticed me. The first day was really tough. There wasn’t any orientation due to the severe staffing shortage, and I was the only nurse, but I’m pretty good at figuring things out. I was a little slow but very determined (maybe this is the fortitude” trait that my husband refers to). My priority was to provide the best care possible for each individual in my charge (39 to be exact). Fortunately, they were very gracious of my ineptness on that first day (especially my inability to speak their language).
Here’s the thing, I believe that if you are going to do something, you might as well do it with a happy heart and a smile. It doesn’t make sense to be miserable and make everyone else miserable, too. It’s not always easy (sometimes I have to remind myself!). I often pray to God before shifts like these with one simple request: for Him to guide my hands and my heart to do His work. When I do this, I feel a sense of meaning and purpose in even the most mundane tasks.
By day two, I was able to find a groove. The patients became more familiar to me, as well as their clinical needs, preferences and routines. I began to sense a purpose for my presence (and my pity party had come to an end). The Director of Nurses began insisting that I stay for another week. When I told him that I missed my dog, he immediately said, “Bring him with you.” I laughed, but it gave me the opportunity to share Wookie’s story and the impact that he had in prior facilities. It opened up a discussion about the Eden Alternative, which he was not aware of. What seemed like a good humored joke in the beginning became an adamant request from him for me to bring Wookie with me.
By the end of day 3, some of the residents and I were doing the chicken dance in the hallway and laughing. I found myself understanding and speaking some of their language. I was so excited to be able to communicate effectively with them (without requesting someone to translate every interaction). I realize now that submerging yourself is the quickest way to learn a new language. I am certainly not fluent, but after a few more visits, I think I could be. And that is exciting.
I’m not sure if I will have the opportunity to visit this border town or facility again, but somewhere inside me is a twinge of hope that I will (with Wookie, of course).