Yet again as I continue on my journey into the nursing profession, I had a first time experience that truly didn’t sit well with me, but is something that we find to be a norm in our society. I had to discharge my first long term patient, which is emotional and trying. In addition to discharging this particular patient, I had to discharge him/her to the street because he/she had no where else to go. His/her family wouldn’t help him/her and he/she didn’t have the funds to go elsewhere so he/she was unable to put him/herself up in a hotel or motel.
In San Diego, we don’t get truly cold below freezing weather, but we still get weather that is chilly and not something you would like to be stuck outside with. This happened to be in December in San Diego, and just before a day where it decided to rain. One of those rare days I find to normally be a treat, but on this particular day, my joy of the freshness rain brings was dampened by the cold wetness it would bring to someone newly homeless being sent to the street to survive. I had this patient more than one day in a row so we were able to prepare him/her the day before that he/she would be discharging the next day and told him/her we would give him/her a list of shelters and to contact whoever he/she could to see if he/she would have a place to stay. My mentor that day tried to find a place for the patient to go if everything else fell through, and then we realized once we found out there was no where for the patient to go, other than waiting in lines. He/she had come in to the hospital in September a much warmer month, and didn’t even have pants or a sweatshirt with her. My coach decided that if no one else had anything to offer up, she would buy something for the patient so there was at least one substantial set of shoes and a sweatshirt to somewhat protect from the cold.
At the last moment a family member was able to pick the patient up from the hospital, but they were unable to bring the patient home with them. It struck me as a sad reality that from our standpoint, we housed this individual for several months and now he/she was going to the street to fend for herself.
There are some things I take for granted that I shouldn’t. I can provide food and shelter for myself, had not become a struggle for this individual. It seems we are missing a part in our social structure if we have people that need to go to the street after leaving the hospital. Especially if they didn’t come from the street to begin with. Understandably we as a hospital and from a medical standpoint can not house people simply because they have no where else to go, but it just felt like such a horrible thing for me as one human being to have to tell another I’m sorry you’re medically clear so you can not stay here, and quite frankly it is not my problem where you go after this. I didn’t have to say that last part but I was in with an administrator who had to do that and it was such a shocking harsh reality to hear someone say that. We as nurses care for people not only as a profession, but fundamentally most of us have a heart that truly want to help others. Period. End of story.
I had never felt as terrible about doing something as I did that day. It saddened me and broke my heart. For the first time after beginning my career I went home and cried about something I had to do at work. A place I am sure I will go again, but hopefully next time I can help make the outcome just a little bit better.
What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to endure in your nursing career? We all have those stories that just stick with us, and if you would like to share your story please do so in the comments below.