When The Pediatric Nurse Fails
I wrote this piece originally on February 11th, about 5 days ago. I had trouble hitting publish, because this piece exposes yet another failure moment in my nursing career. But now I realize how important it is to send this piece out. The struggle is real. The failure is real. The humanity in me is real. When the pediatric nurse fails is yet another personal moment in my life when I realize that I am not perfect as a mom or a nurse. And my hope is that by reading this, you can realize that you are NOT a failure.
I have failed today in every possible way. My son has had a cough…for the past 11 days. I know, terrible. It was only last night, when I realized that his cough was so bad that it was waking him up during his sleep that I accepted that he needed to go to the doctor. What’s wrong with me? Today I hang my head as I, the pediatric nurse diagnose what the heck went wrong these past few weeks.
1. Self diagnosis
6 years of experience. Sometimes I feel like I am the better doctor. Taking in all of his symptoms, I start coming up with my own diagnoses for his illnesses. It must be a cold, not the flu. It must be the weather kicking up his allergies, not bronchitis. His father has a history of asthma, but not my son.
2. Not as bad as the kids I’ve seen in the hospital
He doesn’t have an oxygen mask or intubation tube, his color looks good and he can still go outside and play. Surely he must not need to go to the doctor! There are times when I felt myself wanting to tell my son to “suck it up” and be positive that he would get better if he thought that he was better.
3. Medication guessing game
Moms always know what’s best for their kids, right? So I put together my own cocktail of cough syrup, allergy medicine and good ole steam showers. But at what point do you start second guessing if the medicine is helping? Do I start lying to myself that I am giving him what is best?
4. The superhero kid
My kid is the fighter. The survivor. The hero of the story. He’ll pull out of this cough like no other kid can. My superhero was going to fight this sickness with every ounce of his being and overcome all of the obstacles to get well without the help of someone else.
5. Mom Hat vs. Nurse Hat
I struggle with the mom hat vs. the nurse hat. I want my son to get perfect attendance in school. I don’t want him to miss a second of possible learning. To pull him out of school….I wouldn’t know what to do to get him back on his academic track. But goodness, he’s only in kindergarten. He’s had perfect attendance so far. He’s so bright and intelligent and fun. He would catch up. Then on the other hand, it’s tough to see that my son is my son, not my patient. We aren’t in the hospital. I’m not flipping through his chart or reading his xrays and bloodwork. I’m not starting his IV or feeding him his lunch (ok, maybe I do). But that fine line between being a mom and being a nurse, it’s always there.
6. Out of sight….
He was at school. He’d come home. I wouldn’t hear a cough, or at least not as often or as bad as the morning. When asked, he tells me that he feels “good.” (He’s such a good boy). Maybe the medicines are finally working. I force myself to believe that I have CURED him of his sickness. When really, he’s getting worse.
For some reason, it’s ingrained in my brain that taking my son to the doctor means that I have failed. As a mom. As a nurse. As a problem solver. I’m so protective of my kids, that I cannot reach out and trust the person with years of education and practice in the pediatric field. Maybe I was in the nursing field too long, seeing the wrong diagnoses and treatments for families that I now have become cynical of the medical profession.
So today, I took off my mom blogger hat. I put on the mom hat. I took my kids to the doctor’s office to endure over an hour in a small room with no windows, dealt with crabby hungry kids at the pharmacy, and struggled to get back my “orderly system” for today. I’ve failed. But in that moment, I also won. The antibiotics that my son so desperately needed. The breathing treatments to rid of the wheezing. The hugs of thanks as my son was so grateful to get the help he needed.
And now, 5 days later, I can say that my son is well. Not because of nurse mom. But because I was humble enough to get help.
Have you had trouble accepting help when your kids are sick?