Trau·ma  Junk· ie  ( 'trau-m&  'j&[ng]-kE) n. Slang
  1. One who has an insatiable interest, devotion or addiction to responding and assisting people with serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.

How 2009 Changed Me

...alternatively titled "How I Became a Better Caregiver and a Better Person in '09."

Dear 2009,

You have changed me. It's true. You were a hard and sometimes trying year, but I have no regrets and I'm glad you were a part of my life.

For all of my readers, here's a quick recap of my year, as far as school goes:

Spring 2009
-Respiratory Care Fundamentals II
-Cardiopulmonary Disease Processes: A Case Study Approach
-Respiratory Care Fundamentals II Lab
-Clinical I: Respiratory Therapy Tech
As this was my first semester of clinicals, I learned two important lessons: Regarding patient care, you should always trust yourself, and always ask questions. Becoming a good caregiver is a combination of both of these. If you are ever unsure of yourself, or your knowledge on a certain topic, don't be afraid to ask. No one will look down on you for asking.

Summer 2009
-Respiratory Care Procedures II
-Clinical II: Respiratory Therapy Tech
-Respiratory Care Procedures II Lab
Summer was a trying semester. None of us wanted to be there in the first place (What?! No break AT ALL???) and we covered a lot of ground. We learned some non-invasive procedures (CPAP, BiPAP), but it was also in this semester that everything really tied together and we learned some of the more complex things.

It wasn't long after being signed off on intubation in school that I lost my virginity, and since then I've successfully dropped almost 25 ETT's, only missing once (I went back in a 2nd time and got it.) I grew a lot this semester, as a lot of pressure was placed upon the students. (Read more on what I'm talking about here.)

Fall 2009
-Mechanical Ventilation
-Pulmonary Diagnostics
-Advanced Respiratory Patient Assessment
-Mechanical Ventilation Lab
-Clinical III: Respiratory Therapy Tech
Fall semester of 2009, you kicked my butt. However, it was also in this semester that I learned to find support in the people who care about you the most-- one of the more valuable lessons learned during my course of schooling thus far.

I witnessed my first pediatric code, and I learned that it's okay to be emotional. I also learned that you have to be able to find a balance between the stresses of your job and "real life." As much as it is okay to be raw and let your emotions show, you can't let the things you see burden you.

But the most important lesson learned in Fall of 2009? Working in this field isn't about being a hero, or about saving lives...not all the time. More-so, it is about being there for your patient and their family. Sometimes you don't bring them back, and sometimes you don't even have the chance. At many times in such a career, you are going to be faced with doing things that are extremely difficult for you...but you have to remember that you're in it for the patient.

As many of you know, though, school isn't my life, and my life isn't school. Outside of school, I have a job as a CNA/telemetry tech/Unit Clerk at the local hospital. I learned a lot on the job this year:

I realized when I first became a trauma junkie, and why I love what I do. If you don't love what you're doing, you should be doing something else...and I spent a great part of 2009 trying to figure out why healthcare is the right job for me.

I witnessed my first save, and learned that cardiac arrests don't always end badly. It was also in this same day that I discovered how important it is to truly connect with your patient's family. Medicine is fascinating, and the advances are great, but if you don't have bedside manner, you won't get far...and bedside manner doesn't stop at the bedside.

Outside of work and school, other important things were learned along the way:

-I learned to keep your friends close. Good friends are hard to come by, and when you find them, you should cherish the friendship completely. Never take what you have for granted.

-I learned to find comfort in silence. When everything is so busy and you feel so incredibly weighted down from the events in your life, I learned how to turn it off. I learned how to relax and make time for myself. Sometimes, clearing your mind is just as important as checking off everything on your to-do list for the day...and both should be something you do daily.

-I learned to be my own person. Seems simple enough, but it was a difficult lesson to learn. You don't have to be perfect, nor do you have to embrace everything that everyone thinks you should do. You don't always need the support of others, especially if you know in heart that what you are doing is what is best for you.

So, here's to 2010. A belated Happy New Year to all of my readers!

I intended to write this post with resolutions on what I plan to change in the New Year, but I don't make any promises at this point. 2009 has taught me a lot, and I guess my main goal for the New Year is to relax and expand on the lessons learned in 2009...to continue to grow, and become better at all aspects of my life, one step at a time.

I'm certain 2010 is full of many exciting changes and new chapters in my life, but I don't know what those are just yet, and that's okay.

One breath at a time, right?

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