A Chapter Closes

Tonight will be my last night shift. I have been working nights for three years doing palliative care for patients who choose to die at home. At first, this change shook me up. I love my job. It is by far the best job i have ever had. But I am tired. I am tired of working nights. That alone will lead most people to an early grave. I am mostly weary. Palliative care is emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Leaving my work at work has never been a problem. Many people ask me how I do it and I can honestly say it comes easily to me. We all have to die. The odds are 100/100. It is my job to make that the best experience possible or very least, the least shitty experience possible. I grieve with the people I care for and their family and friends. I don’t offer advice because there is none. All I do is listen and watch and do everything in my power to make those in my care feel comforted and comfortable.

But I am weary. Even though I can leave my work at work I am still tired. Caring for the dying is starting to weigh on me. Lately, after I leave a home I don’t feel that same feeling of making a difference. I just feel tired. Sometimes I feel angry. Most of the time I just want a break. It is time. I am no longer able to give 100% because I don’t have 100% to give.

And so, next week I go into the community to give baths and hand out medication. I will assist with meal prep. and helping those I care for get up and ready for the day. I will throw in the occasion load of laundry, do a few dishes and wipe counters. I will shave old men’s faces and brush old ladies hair. I will clean dentures and make beds. I will be a companion to break up long days spent alone and a friend to listen. I will observe and report to my nurse leaders any behaviour that is out of the ordinary that might tell of a urinary tract infection or a stroke. Mostly, I am allowing the people I care for the ability to stay in their own home until such a time as they can no longer or death claims them. I am working myself out of a job and with no doubt someone else will take their place. (The list is long. We are always desperate for workers and it is only going to get worse.) Each day I will see anywhere from 6 to 15 people. And maybe I will get the rest I need so I can one day return to my first love.

11 thoughts on “A Chapter Closes

  1. Your work is so hard, yet so important. I think of the many health care acquaintances I’ve met in my day and the wonderful ones stand out and stay with me. You are such a huge component of peace in the time of life when it is most important. Never lose sight of what a wonderful impact you make in the world!

  2. What a perfect and beautiful description of what we do. I have not had any palliative care jobs since last spring. I miss them but I too am working days for a very disabled woman, and a couple 90+ women. They are both adorable…it’s good work. But I do miss my hospice clients. I think you are so wise to recognize your own needs and make changes accordingly. Anyway…bless your heart and I hope you find a new rhythm that works well for your life.

  3. Your work in palliative care must be so tiring emotionally. It sounds like a change of pace and role is just what you need. You do such an amazing job either way and I can imagine your clients feel better by your presence. Hoping you will feel re-energised by the change. Take care of you. Xx

  4. You are making a difference, and I think it is wonderful. Night shift is not good for anyone (my opinion), so a day shift hopefully won’t be as exhausting, and more rewarding. You are still helping others, I admire your love and strength. 🙂

  5. I sure hope working days won’t be as demanding as night shift.
    When I worked nights in the lab it was very demanding and hard on me. But it was worth it. I loved it and now I miss it greatly.

  6. You’ve done so much and continue to do so much for those who need it most.. it’s an amazing thing you do and you deserves a break. I hope you will enjoy being out in the day.

  7. Compassion fatigue it’s called. I have that too. I’m trying to step back and save something for myself without changing jobs. Take care woman.

  8. I admire your compassion, – it’s palpable. I’m sure though that you cannot spend your whole life doing palliative care – no matter how much you love it, and how much you bring to others, it is emotionally draining even when you think it isn’t! But my God, you’ve held such a special place in many lives. Your new job will also be awesome – I suspect these folks will just love to have you come and visit and help them. I would. And anything that helps you with a more “normal” routine with daylight and sunlight and many other people in your day will, I am sure, be a wonderful change for you. Best wishes with the new job.

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