I wanted to be a nurse when I was 18. For all kinds of reasons, I went on to do a degree in broadcast journalism instead. Then Jane's illness happened and it spurred me on to finally get this nursing degree done. I was going to use my experience for a good thing. I would become a palliative care nurse and make things better for other dying people. That was my motivation.
Or was it? Was my motivation perhaps more selfish than that? Working as a health care assistant in palliative care is nice. It requires lots of care and empathy. Helping people with washing and dressing etc can really help them have a 'better death. I never questioned that being a palliative care nurse would merely mean I could care for people even better. But now that I am in nursing school, I am beginning to doubt my motivation.
I spend a lot of my time looking t things related to brain tumours. Palliative care for young cancer patients, radiotherapy doses for Astrocytomas, recommended surgical interventions for frontal-lobe Astrocytomas, use of different chemotherapy drugs in brain tumours and their relative efficacy.... that kind of stuff. My assignments are often linked to my own experience and how I use that in practice. All I do seems related to it. When lecturers say: pick a topic for your assignment that you care about... generally, brain tumours or cancer and young people are the first things to pop in to my head. Not that I go to the library for hours especially to look stuff up, but when I am there, I will often lose track of what I was doing because I end up reading about brain tumour-related things.
And I am not sure that is the right motivation to sustain a nursing career. Surely this means I will suffer burn out sometime soon? Am I only doing this degree so that I can look back at Jane's treatment and finally understand what was done, the medication she was given, how her symptoms progressed, how her death was essentially inevitable from the day she was diagnosed etc. I don't actually WANT to spend the rest of my life linking everything I do to Jane and her illness. Which is exactly what would happen if become a palliative care nurse. My very existence would be defined, every day, by how I want to either improve on the care Jane got, or improve the bad parts of it. I will constantly want to tell people: I understand, I have gone through the same thing. Which is inappropriate almost all of the time. The question is why do I feel I want to do that? Is it because I need to feel connected to other people in similar situations or is it because I want to pass on my wisdom? Am I looking for something or am I looking for a way to give something back? I would like to think it is the latter but deep down I think I know it isn't.
It is surely not a good idea to think about it in such terms. So I am thinking more and more that I should focus on something else. A different specialty perhaps. And forget about palliative nursing completely, at least for a few years. Until I am ready to do it for the right reasons, armed with the right amount of self-awareness and the skills to see when I am overstepping professional boundaries, both towards the patient and towards myself.