Now I want you to remember what assumptions you made about me and compare them to what I am going to tell you.
I have always wanted to be a pediatric nurse, but now I am also interested in psych nursing.
My last name is McGowan, I come from an Irish and Roman Catholic family - aside from Irish American I do not know what other heritage I am from.
I grew up in Yorktown Heights New York and have only ever lived in the house I currently live in and in the tiny room I have shared with my older sister since I was born. I have an older sister and an older brother, we are each about 2 years apart. I also live with my parents and my dog bailey. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and some even more extended family have been a very present part of my life and although they drive me crazy sometimes, I would not trade them in for the world.
I went to an all-girls catholic school in white plains which closed after my junior year, so I went to a different all girls catholic school in Rye.
I played soccer until third grade, basketball fourth through eighth and volleyball eighth, in high school I played softball as a sophomore, golf as a junior, I was in the stage crew at an all-boys catholic school. When I went to a new school for senior year, I was the new kid and I was terrified. So, I tried out for the soccer team and made varsity, ran track in the winter, and played softball in the spring. I chose Scranton a week before the deadline and only told one person and it was not my parents.
My best friend from home is a girl I met as a senior at my new school and even though she goes to school in Ireland, we talk every day. I was terrified of her for most of senior year and sometimes still am very intimidated. No one aside from family, has ever been that kind to me. My best friends at Scranton were made in some of my least favorite classes.
All of these assumptions are basically harmless. None of them would affect my health or risk my life, but that is not always the case. As a future nurse, I need to always make sure to make my patients feel comfortable, welcome, and calm. I need them to know that I am not judging anything about them or their lives, and I need to show them that. I need to gain their trust so that I can give them the best care possible.
When a person sees someone who looks, acts, sounds, smells, or seems different, they often stare because it is new to them. People make assumptions about someone based on how they differ from what is deemed “normal.” Sometimes the target of these assumptions remain completely unaware, but if they do find out it can be psychologically damaging. Assumptions can be harmless, but in a profession like nursing, they can be extremely harmful. Pope Francis’ encyclical “La Dato Si”, Father Boyle’s book Tattoos on the Heart, and the movie “Wonder” have many common themes that can be crucial lessons for those in the nursing profession.
This class and the materials we have studied served to increase awareness of how assumptions and reactions that people make can take away a person’s dignity. Nursing school has taught students how important it is to maintain every patient’s dignity, and how not making assumptions saves lives. If a patient comes into the hospital and they are acting intoxicated and perhaps they smell like alcohol, a nurse might assume that this person is “just another drunk,” may give them fluids and send them home as soon as they sober up. This person may have a serious illness and the nurse’s assumption could cause serious harm or even kill that patient. Diseases like diabetes, epilepsy, or Alzheimer’s, a traumatic brain injury, or having a stroke are just a few things that may present themselves as the patient looking like they are intoxicated. As Pope Francis states in his above-named encyclical, “Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbor, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth,” (Paragraph 70).
If an individual has an expressive face, or is naturally not very good at masking their emotions or thoughts, they may offend someone they encounter. Nurses need to control their natural responses not react to things when meeting a patient or family. Nurses must listen to their patients and ask good questions to learn as much as they can. All of their questions and comments need to be grounded in and in pursuit of the facts.
Nurses need to ask each new patient if they were born with ovaries because not everyone who was born female identifies as female and some have even had surgeries and drug therapy to have their external body match their inner self. They need to gain the patient’s trust before learning something like this and it is easy to lose someone’s trust if they react in any way that can be taken negatively. If a patient comes in and they are pregnant and want an abortion, or want to become pregnant and cannot so they want medical procedures to help, nurses must be aware of their own limitations, morals, and predisposed feelings about these procedures and recognize if they are not going to be able to give the patient the best care possible. It is not a sign of weakness or judgement if the nurse recognizes that certain situations oppose their moral standards and they need to ask a coworker to provide the care to that patient. This needs to be done non- judgmentally and the nurse needs to point the patient in the best direction for what they have requested – regardless of their personal comfort level.