For the full newsletter, click on: BCRHN Newsletter – Feb 2020
In my last post Working Through Loss, I touched on the concept of Trauma Informed Practice (TIP). This topic has got me passionate about sharing the trauma and loss that nurses face shift-to-shift and how this impacts us as human beings. If we as nurses are not aware of trauma and its effects then it could lead to devastating consequences for ourselves and our profession. In rural health it’s imperative that employers acknowledge this fact and incorporate healthy workplace policy to support nurses. If you don’t keep your rural nurses healthy it will affect an entire community’s health.
Prior to becoming a nurse I worked at a rehab centre for women. I was an Executive Assistant, when off for the semester of college, and during classes I was privileged to work in the research department. This job was one of the greatest opportunities of my life, in so many ways. I worked along side an amazing leader who taught me all I know about leadership and capacity building (I will save that for another post).
I would spend countless hours after nursing school locked away in a little office in the skeleton of an old hospital in Vancouver. And through my data entry and analysis a window opened to the trauma that thousands of women face. I inputted data on sexual abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse. I typed thousands of horror stories. I collected stats and as the data flowed a picture of a female addict emerged. I remember typing on the computer and I would have tears rolling down my cheeks. I was a silent invisible bystander to these women’s suffering and it changed how I view trauma and life. It made me an advocate, it humbled my struggles in my personal life, and it built upon my empathy. It would be safe to say I learned more in those four walls of that tiny office than I did in all my years prior.
I can see her now, her hair black as night, boobs out and ready for action, make-up on and a stiff upper lip painted blood red. She was a goddess, a beautiful soul that had been raped at the age of five by her one of her mom’s boyfriends. She struggled with relationships, she struggled to get close to people because of the trauma she suffered. This led to many bad relationships with men, she got raped again at 18, she got beat-up, and she became a closed off shell. She hated her life and she hated herself. She would come into the ED drunk and belligerent. She would swear and call us all bitches. She lied, she cheated, and she rebelled. She was one of my favorite people – this mess of a woman was one of the most resilient and authentic humans I have ever met.
Malcolm cleans patient rooms and offices in the large medical center where we both work as pediatric doctors.
After finishing our respective rounds one afternoon, we noticed that Malcolm was deep in conversation with the parents of one of our very sick patients. We met him later in the hall, and the three of us began to talk. After Malcolm told us a bit about the concerns of our patient’s family, he mentioned the ways he often supports and cares for the children being treated on our ward.
“I don’t call myself a housekeeper,” said Malcolm, who has been with the hospital for 10 years. “I am the keeper of the house.”
Malcolm’s description of what he does knocked us back on our heels. It made us realize that we pass dozens of housekeepers in the corridors and elevators every day and — like most other physicians — pay little attention to what they really do and had little appreciation of their contributions to patient care.