Saturday, April 16, 2016
Unlikely Gifts:Nursing with Diabetes
Siana Wood, RN
"It took me a long time to find the courage to go to nursing school. I earned a BA in liberal arts and worked for years in healthcare before I even considered becoming a nurse. What mostly held me back was concern about whether my health could withstand the stress of an unpredictable schedule, and where I’d find the money to attend school, and supplement any lost income from reducing my work hours."
"Then, when I began working in a hospital as a project manager, I had access to a wonderful nursing leadership team who..... encouraged me to pursue a nursing degree... When the hospital announced a special program to sponsor employees attending nursing school, it seemed meant to be. And so, 20 years after my diagnosis, I began the path to a nursing degree."
"I have type 1 diabetes, the more rare of the two main types. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are about shortages of insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas and necessary for life, as it helps the body convert glucose into energy.... For both types, the goal is to try to maintain blood glucose levels as close to a person without diabetes as possible, because levels that are too low or too high are harmful. Unfortunately, this is so much easier said than done."
"Every clinical instructor I worked with was understanding and flexible regarding my diabetes. It became apparent very quickly that the physical nature of bedside nursing drastically dropped my blood sugars, so I learned to run temporary, decreased basal rates on my insulin pump when I knew there was a transfer or a bed bath coming. Still, even then, I couldn’t anticipate every situation that might cause hypoglycemia, and so sometimes even with my best efforts, I’d still get hypoglycemic. I always kept glucose and snacks with me, and it was never an issue for me to sit down and regroup."
"I think what I most often brought to my student nursing—and what I try to bring to my patients now—is my undivided attention and a willingness to listen to patients talk about being sick, being hospitalized, being frightened and powerless, and vulnerable. Whether illness comes in a chronic form or an acute form, it can turn your reality and security upside down. Tending to the feelings unleashed by illness is an important a part of my nursing care—as much as the medical and technical aspects of nursing. It’s one of diabetes’ gifts, I guess. I wouldn’t have learned how crucial that therapeutic presence is unless I hadn’t been such a grateful recipient of it from the beginning, and throughout my years as a patient."
"The routine of nursing school, family, work, and diabetes had become so “normal” in its own way that once I finished nursing school and passed my boards, it took me a little while to realize that I was really, truly a registered nurse."
"The road led to a wonderful compromise, as it turns out. I accepted a full-time weekday position as a quality management data abstractor at Women & Infants’ Hospital in Providence, RI. On the weekends, I work as a pediatric home care nurse."
"I still yearn to work more frequently with patients, but I do think things happen for a reason. One of the biggest gifts I never saw coming is the realization that with a low-physical-impact nursing job, I can safely plan for having a baby..."
"There is something spare and simple and life affirming about finding the ability to treasure even the smallest of gifts when things are hard. It is part of how I keep going, too, when my health gets difficult—or when life in general is difficult."
"....The willow knows what the storm does not: that the power to endure harm outlives the power to inflict it.” Life inflicts all manner of harm—disability included—but in the face of the worst of it, I can still bend, still endure. Somewhere along the way, I realized that for me, my diabetes, with its challenges and unlikely gifts, is both the willow and the storm. I don’t have to like what the storm wreaks—the pain, the limitations, the uncertainty—but I know there will be calm again—and beyond the calm, so much more."
Siana Wood, RN, lives in Rhode Island with her husband Mike and their four cats. She has worked as both a nurse abstractor and a home care nurse. Siana now works as a nurse case manager for a Patient Centered Medical Home, a primary care practice in RI.
Read more of Siana's story in the chapter she wrote in the book, "The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the trenches of truly resilient nurses working with disabilities".