Tag Archives: nursing

If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold it Against Me?

My apologies to the Bellamy Brothers, country music fans, and beautiful people everywhere for that title.

In my acceptance of the Versatile Blogger Award, bestowed upon me by 5 people whom I admire greatly, I listed 7 things about myself.  The first was “I love everything about the human body”.

I have always had a fascination with human anatomy and although I did not become a nurse until later in life, I studied everything I could get my hands on that dealt with medicine, health, and bodily functions.  I grew up on a farm and never suffered squeamishness for any of the aspects of farm life (birth, death, reproduction).  I loved animals and caring for animals, but my true fascination was with humans.

I enjoy anatomy.  I love saying the correct anatomical names for body parts.  Amygdala.  Corpus luteum. Gastrocnemius. Aqueous humor. Hypothalamus. Frenulum. Uvula. Conjunctiva.  I also enjoy listening to patients use slang terms to describe their anatomy, and I think I’ve heard them all.

I love looking at bodies, from the moist pink sweetness of newborns to the crinkled saggy skin and atrophied limbs of the frail elderly.  I love bodies.  All sizes, shapes, and configurations.  I love admiring a strong healthy specimen as much as the next person,  but what others may consider grotesque fascinates me. Extremes of body make-up – body builders, anorexics, morbidly obese – I can look at them without judgement, and admire the miracle that is the vessel that holds their being.

The organs that make up the various systems of the body are so wondrous to me. How marvelous that sound waves can strike a membrane that vibrates some bones that result in a concerto, a baby’s first words, or the cry of a loon.  Waves of light strike the back of our eyes and we see a sunrise, the panorama of the Grand Canyon, or a delicate flower.   Through our skin with its billions of nerve endings we can feel the caress of a lover, the warmth of the sun and the coolness of a gentle breeze.  How wonderful that our bodies can take in substances of the earth and specialized organs tell cells to extract the exact nutrients we need and dispose of the rest.  How wonderful that our hearts pump life sustaining fluid to all of our cells; that our lungs take in the atmosphere and supply our bodies with oxygen needed to survive.  Our brains and spinal cords, neurons and synapses, working in conjunction with every other system to coordinate movement, thought, action, procreation.

In retrospect, I guess that I probably don’t really love the by-products of the human body.  As a nurse, I’ve suffered every imaginable bodily fluid or secretion and although I have to say I don’t enjoy them, I am not repulsed by them, either.  It just is.  Part of the job, part of the price for the wonder that is the body human.

What really and truly causes me to have a gut-clenching, breath-robbing reaction is the effect of trauma, abuse or neglect for those bodies I love so dearly.  I cared for a young man once who was jumped outside of a bar in the early morning hours.  One punch to the face and he went down, striking his head on the pavement.  He never regained consciousness.  I’ve seen gunshot wounds, amputations, surgical debacles, and elderly abuse victims.  Motor vehicle accidents (face-vs-windshield – guess which wins?).  Strokes and heart attacks – ravages of disease.  Through it all, I have retained my love of the bodies that bring the patients to me, that house their souls and personas, their beings and in the end relinquish it all at their passing.

So, if I said you have a beautiful body – please believe me.  I mean it.

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Her Legacy Lives

Born May 12, 1820 – Died August 13, 1910

Florence Nightingale died 101 years ago today.  Florence is widely credited with elevating the profession of nursing to a respectable profession.  In the Dark Ages, male monks routinely provided care to the sick – in 17th century Europe, “nursing care” was provided by men and women serving punishment, and frequently by prostitutes too old or ill themselves to continue that profession.  Wikipedia states “They had a reputation for being drunk and obnoxious, a view amplified by the doctors of the time to make themselves seem more important and able…” Hmmm…

Florence was from a wealthy family and was educated as a statistician.  Her insistence on clean dressings, fresh air, clean linens and sanitary hospital conditions – combined with her meticulous recordkeeping, provided evidence for the need for change in caring for the sick and wounded.  Her pioneering work improving the conditions for soldiers in the Crimean War laid the foundation for her book “Notes on Nursing”. In 1860 she established a nursing school at St. Thomas Hospital in London.  She was also known as “The Lady with the Lamp” for her routine of making rounds at night.

In 1998 I travelled to London and visited St. Thomas Hospital.  I also visited Embley Park, one of the Nighingale family homes.

In the back of the home was a tree with a low branch, and it was reported by the tour guide the Florence often sat on that branch and wrote about nursing, and it was at Embley Park where Ms. Nightingale reported being called to nursing by God.   I sat on that branch and a photograph was taken, but somehow in our move, it was misplaced.

I have a great deal of respect for the work and spirit of Ms. Nightingale.  Upon graduating nursing school, I took a pledge similar to this one (which is the original pledge).

I solemnly pledge myself before God and presence of this assembly;
To pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully.
I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.
I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.
With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

I can’t say that I have passed my life in purity, and I haven’t always abstained for what is deleterious or mischievous, but I can say that I have always practiced my profession faithfully.  I consider it an honor, and a privilege, to be a nurse.  And I honor Florence Nightingale on the anniversary of her death.

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