Friday, August 24, 2012

Goodbye Birth Center

This one is tough.  Not because it was hard to say goodbye, but because it in my last position I never felt like I got much past hello.  I loved taking care of birthing families.  Those of you who KNOW me, know that this is a true passion for me.  Assisting women and their families welcome a new life into their world.  It was a miracle every time.
25 years ago I went to nursing school.  I went because I wanted to be an OB RN and I was so lucky to have been accepted into a residency at Tacoma General.  I met people who were caring, helpful, frustrating, but mostly they welcomed me as part of the team.  Several of those nurses I first met are still good friends.  After about 6 years I added teaching prenatal classes to the mix and and loved every minute of that.  How fortunate I was a few years later when a local OB hired me to help her in her new practice where she built a free standing birth center for women who wanted an out of hospital birthing experience and provided me a wonderful space and support to continue teaching.  There are clients I had who also have become forever friends.  So many women have touched my life in ways that I will be forever grateful. 
Then 12 years ago Lynn was recruited to a new job in a new area and since I had been married to him for 26 years at the time, I thought I ought to go with him.  I told him that I wasn't going to work nights again, and he said I should do what I wanted to I signed up to work per dium at the local (and only) hospital in the area.
There were a few Doc's who were a pleasure to work with and a few nurses.  But there seemed to always be such a lack of leadership on the management team..  In fact there were 7 different managers in the 12 years I was there.  I shouldn't have been surprised when after taking a pretty good fall while at work, and being off work to recover I never heard one word from anyone asking how I was doing.
Most of the nursing staff were long time employees working in the birth center.  They had worked together for a long, long time so 'breaking in' was hard enough, that given my limited working hours, it just became almost too painful to continue to try.  This was especially hard since I had come from a working environment where it was such a joy to go to work everyday.  Where my experience and knowledge were valued and appreciated.  I've always been really easy to get along with and have lived by the thought that it is so much easier to just be nice.....
Three of the long time nurses passed away during my 12 years.  One was a drowning accident, two from disease.  Three of the nicest people I worked with.  It was a gut wrenching time for the department.
As new staff arrived, I did my best to introduce myself and get to know them, to make them feel more welcome than perhaps I had felt.  But as time went on, it became more clear that you were part of that shift group or you were almost invisible.  An unforgettable moment was when I was overwhelmed with a coughing episode in my clients room, and left the room.  Got to the hall, right across from the main nurses station and leaned against the wall with my legs tightly crossed, hacking and coughing and gasping.  Not ONE of the FIVE nurses at the station gave me more than a cursory glance as they continued to chat amongst themselves.  Not one.  After getting myself calmed down and able to walk to a water fountain I realized that I really was on my own in this place.
Ultimately I spent most of my working hours with the clients.  Listening to them, coaching them, encouraging them, helping them to have the kind of birth experience they told me they wanted.  For the most part they expressed their appreciation and that is really what it is all about.
I've been blessed to be present at the births of thousands of births in the past 22 years.  And privileged to  have been involved in the education process for a thousand more.
Now that I have moved, and visited the two nearest hospitals in the area, I have come to realize and accept that my days of being an OB RN have come to an end.  I just don't have the stamina or energy to do it again, and possibly face that same cold working environment that I just left.
I don't think I am ready to give up the world of birthing women yet, so I might dust off my Doula bag and put myself out there, if I can find a market for that here.  Maybe even doing some teaching on a small scale.  Time will tell.  For now, I'll keep learning as much about my new city, county and state as I can and do some research.
It was a great run......



Judith Turner said...

Sharon, I too am coming to the end of my career as a labor and delivery nurse, all of which has, as you know, been at Tacoma General. I am so burned out on the system, on the politics of health care and the reality of what really matters...the bottom line. I love the births and the families and that is what will keep me going until the end of this year when I plan to retire. I hope to find another niche for my nursing skills, I will have my IBCLC to maybe use for a couple more years, IV skills etc. In a way I do feel sad, but I am also ready to move on. Good luck, I will see you in California one of these days, when I come on vacation.!
Judy T

Dawn W. said...

It's sad for everyone to lose exceptional nurses because there aren't too many of you left out there it seems. I'm happy for you to have some time to regroup and do something for yourself, to remember who YOU are as a person, and to find those little things in life that keep you happy. But if/when you do go back to nursing, those new families will be forever blessed to know you and learn from you. xoxo Dawn