Happy New Year
 by Kim Zweygardt, CRNA 
 
    I haven't made New Years Resolutions in years, though it was a ritual from my childhood, sitting with #2 pencil in hand, scribbling on a Big Chief tablet while I watched the Rose Bowl parade on television, New Years morning.
    But as the multitude of newspapers, e-mail's, and TV commentators tell us over and over, "things are different since Sept. 11" and so, this New Year I find myself in a state of contemplation.  I'm not worried about losing 10 pounds, not vowing to eat right or get on the treadmill daily, although those are all things that I might resolve to do.  I find myself thinking more about the minutes that become hours and the hours that become days, then weeks and years that suddenly become the essence of one's life.

    "Life is what happens while we're making other plans," said John Lennon.  I don't want to waste those minutes and hours of my life on things that don't really matter, and then come to realize at the end of my life that the "big plan" never materialized and life happened while I wasn't looking.

    The only thing that lasts forever is the investment we make in other people--our spouses, our kids, our loved ones, our friends, or even the strangers that we show love to.  We may never know when our smile or touch makes a profound difference to someone who is frightened or hurting or just lonely.

    I recently met a former patient who I did not remember, but she remembered me.  It was my first year here, almost 8 years ago.  It was one of hundreds of cases I did that year. She had a hot appendix.  It was the middle of the night.  As I push the IV drugs to put my patients to sleep, I always kind of rub their head, stroke their brow with my free hand, telling them I'm going to be right there taking care of them while they are sleeping.

    At a soup supper, she recognized me and recounted how scared she was before surgery, but when she felt me "touching her hair" she knew that I cared  and would take good care of her.  The fear left as she drifted into anesthetic slumber.  I didn't do anything different for her than I've done for thousands of patients over the years, but all she knew is that she wasn't alone in that operating room.  Someone cared.  That is the essence of being a CRNA.

    In my profession, my knowledge makes the difference between life and death, but it is my caring that defines me to the patient.  Think about it.  Someone may be a great accountant, and the client very grateful, but does their knowledge give them the satisfaction I have every day, knowing I've made a difference to someone?

    I call it a "sacred trust."  Whether the patient is a stranger or friend, no matter their color, creed, economic class or religion, each patient is cared for as if they were a member of my own family.  I hold their life in my hands and every life has the same value in my care.  It is a gift to make a difference to someone just by practicing my profession every day.

    Recently, medicine and anesthesia have gotten political as health care budgets tighten.  There are those who would see my profession obliterated or controlled.  Because I love my practice as a nurse anesthetist, it has  been disheartening and discouraging.

    Sometimes, I've lost sight of exactly why I do what I do.  I've always cared for my patients, I've always cared about my patients, but there have been times that my heart just wasn't in it, because I was consumed with the (perceived) "loss" of my profession or obsessed with the lies printed in the press.

    Well, it is a new year, and I feel better having taken stock of my life. The fight isn't over and I'm sure I'll get mad and discouraged again. But, no one can take from me the one-on-one caring, the making a difference to someone while delivering the best part of anesthesia care (which isn't all the bells and whistles, but the watchful care of a CRNA) every day.
    And I won't give up, no matter what happens politically.  We nurse anesthetists have stood for 120 years as patient advocates and guardians, so I don't think the political battles will be over any time soon.  So far, I haven't heard the fat lady sing.  Meantime, I'll continue to do what I've done for 20 years and that is give the best anesthesia care I know how to give, with the emphasis on caring.


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