When I arrived at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, I had just come fresh off a very thrilling clinical experience on a cardiothoracic surgical unit at UW Hospital. The unit was a combination of intensive care, PCU and general care, and I felt like I had seen a lot, maybe even a bit more than some of my fellow nursing students. On some of my last days, I was able to visit with a patient on ECMO. My nurse working with me told me I most likely would never see this again. I could not have imagined that just one month later, my first day on the unit, I would see two other patients, both on ECMO, receiving dialysis through their lines.
What I appreciate most from the time spent here in Rochester was my opportunity to work with patients as young as three days old to patients in their 90s. Nowhere else could I have gotten such an incredible variation in patient types and needs.
When I leave here I will remember many of my patients. I have learned how it is to create some separation from the patients I care for day in and day out. But that doesn’t mean that once I’m back in Madison, I won’t wonder every so often how the patient I gave hand massages to each dialysis session is doing, or how the young boy who received a long awaited kidney transplant is holding up, or how the family who lost their father suddenly to stroke is coping with the loss. This summer will always be a part of who I am as a nurse, and I can’t thank enough the nurses who helped me through this learning process.
As the last week quickly approaches two events stand out. At the beginning of the week, one of our young patients received his kidney transplant. He has been in and out of the hospital for over three years and I spent many days with him and his family over the course of this summer. I worry about his quality of life and can only hope that this transplant will work and give him some semblance of a childhood. At the end of the week, another of our young patients, who had just transferred from the ICU to his rehab unit, passed away suddenly. These moments struck me most because the sick people are so young and so innocent. This summer is a true realization for me of the fragility of life and how quickly it is taken from us. When I leave Rochester, I will continue to remember and hope for these boys and their families. In the end, no amount of separation can protect us as nurses from caring for those we care for. I am grateful to Mayo and the Summer III program for providing me with such a full learning opportunity.