For Every Problem, There is a Solution
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.
Spoiler Alert: This post discusses events in Call the Midwife Season 8 Episode 2.
Sister Julienne runs Nonnatus House with both skill and compassion, two characteristics that allow her to be an extremely effective leader. This week, I could see her concern for Lucille’s well-being when she suggested that Lucille take a step back from her involvement with Ms. Millgrove, a lonely elderly woman in need of medical attention who happens to be living in an unsafe environment. Given that many people go into nursing because of a strong desire to help others, make a difference in their lives, and provide compassionate care, it can be easy to become overly involved in someone’s story. The line between job duties (providing holistic nursing care) and becoming too involved are often blurred. Nurses not only provide medications and dressing changes, but we address the whole person: body, mind and spirit. I’m certain that Lucille’s pull to help Ms. Millgrove comes from her caring nature, and having fostered a connection with her patient, she simply wants to continue helping. Lucille helps clean up Ms. Millgrove’s flat on her evening off of work. She drops everything when she hears that the welfare office is going to remove Ms. Millgrove from her flat against her will. Lucille is a fierce advocate for her patients, but the connection with Ms. Millgrove seems to run a little deeper.
When they first meet, Lucille tells Ms. Millgrove, “For every problem, there is a solution.” While this is true, the solution may not always be obvious, or it might not be easily agreed upon. The solution may not even be what we want, as in the case of Ms. Millgrove. Moving out of her home where she feels safe, and into a nursing home, is terrifying. Losing all of her possessions is devastating. This is not the solution that Ms. Millgrove would have preferred or chosen on her own, even if it is the right decision for her physical wellbeing.
“For every problem, there is a solution.” While this is true, the solution may not always be obvious, or it might not be easily agreed upon.
I was talking to a colleague last week about our ability to “turn off” when we go home from work. Some days, it’s really easy. As soon as I step in the door at home, I’m out of “midwife” mode and into “family” mode. Most of the time, though, it’s much more difficult. I find myself thinking of my patients, wondering how they’re doing, wondering if I gave them my all that day. I think of the ones I left laboring at the hospital, I think through the birth experiences I’ve been a part of, and I think of my patients from the office. I worry about the pregnant woman who is anemic, I worry about the person I sent for a mammogram after feeling a lump in her breast, and I worry about the many patients I see who have pretty significant life stressors. Some have lost a loved one, and are grieving. Some are struggling to work in an active job while they grow further along in their pregnancies. Some of them have relationship problems, abuse, and worries about transportation and places to live. When you take the time to get to know your clients and families, they often open up to you with much more than you ever imagined. It’s hard not to take that home, to let it affect your moods, or to keep clients from creeping into your thoughts when you’re fighting for sleep.
For every problem, there is a solution. For some, the solution is to not get so involved. You don’t have to delve into the personal lives of your clients in order to take good care of them. You don’t have to check your work phone from home first thing when you wake up, to see how your laboring client is doing. You don’t have to go in on your day off to visit a postpartum client. Sometimes I do these things, and sometimes I don’t. Like Lucille, when you form a connection with someone, you want to be there for them. Now, I don’t pretend to know every struggle or intimate detail about my client’s lives, nor am I a therapist or a counselor, and I cannot solve everyone’s problems. I certainly don’t think that my and my colleague’s inability to turn off after work is harder than the struggles that a lot of our clients are going through, but it can definitely affect mental health.
One important form of self-care that we often forget about is talk therapy.
Sister Julienne suggested to Lucille that she step back, let the welfare office do their job. She reminds Lucille that she has already gone above and beyond for Ms. Millgrove. Although this suggestion is well-meaning, and I don’t think anyone would have faulted Lucille had she chosen to stay home that day, she felt that the right thing to do was to go to Ms. Millgrove. Sister Julienne wanted to protect Lucille from burn-out, from being too emotionally invested. When this happens, it can affect your mental health, like I said before, and your ability to care for others in your job and your every day life.
I am so glad that Lucille has her colleagues and friends at Nonnatus House who understand what she is going through. There is always someone to talk to, a kind and patient listening ear. One important form of self-care that we often forget about is talk therapy. Warm baths, chocolate, and manicures are wonderful, but expensive, and not feasible to everyone in need of self-care. What we do need is someone that we can trust, who we feel like we can contact anytime, and they will be available just to listen. This sounds like an easy task, but is it really? Many people I know might have a few of these close friends or family members in their lives, but some do not. Also, on top of already feeling stressed or overwhelmed, guilt often stops us from sharing our true thoughts and problems with others. We don’t want to sound overly negative or be labeled as a complainer. Maybe we think our problems really aren’t that difficult in comparison to what other people might be going through. This may be where therapy with a licensed provider comes into play. Therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists can not only listen to what you’re going through and feeling, but also provide you with techniques for processing through these feelings.
For every problem, there is a solution. If you’re feeling sad, overwhelmed, or anxious, the solution might be counseling or therapy. Please do not hesitate to contact any of your health care providers for a referral. As always, if you’re feeling suicidal, or your feel like you have a plan to hurt yourself or anyone else, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for immediate help. You are not alone, and together, we can find a solution to help you start feeling better.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.
Andrea Altomaro (MS, RN, CNM) has been nurse-midwife for the past three years and is currently working for the Henry Ford Health System. Before becoming a midwife, she worked as a nurse in the emergency department and also in labor and delivery.
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