About 2 seconds ago, I silenced the alarm on my work phone. It's there to remind me to call the time system and clock in for the day. As of right this minute, I'm officially on vacation until next Wednesday, and not a moment too soon.
I want to talk about a few things here, because I'm losing the courage to do my work.
I love this specialty, I truly do. I feel I make a difference. Even during that kerfuffle last month, I may not have made a difference to the family who verbally abused me, but I saw to the needs of the struggling patient. I made a difference to him and was able to ease his suffering. Over the summer, I had an incident where the family told me they never wanted me to darken their doorstep again. That was until the next time they called and needed help at 10 PM. Recently, they sent a letter to my employer thanking the staff that helped them and though at one point they'd expressed dislike for me, in the end, they singled me out to express gratitude. I was surprised and appreciative of the recognition.
Truth be told, I feel like a RN (real nurse) doing this job. Unlike my day shift counterparts who carry a heavy workload, I usually don't. I have time, hours to spend if needed, to provide emotional and skilled support. I often get phone calls where someone has but a question and not a need for a visit, but if I sense any distress at all, I make a visit. I've kept vigils with families who are distraught or afraid to be alone. If I'm there for awhile, I'll pull out my knitting and we while away time talking with the soothing sound of needles clicking away.
In short, I love my work, but sometimes, I question what I'm doing.
Last night, as I pulled up to a home in a very dicey neighborhood (not a unique situation), I was aware of a man lurking in the shrubs and trees 2 doors down (definitely not the norm). It was late, dark and bitterly cold. I called the caregiver of the patient and told her I was there, but couldn't safely exit my car. I could see the man looking my way in my rearview mirror--you know, the mirror that says, "objects in mirror may be closer than they appear?" The caregiver came out to get me. As she opened her front door, and I stepped out of my car, two men emerged from the trees and approached me. With my heart in my throat, I started to climb the porch steps, lost my footing and fell. The men, seeing the woman on the porch, stopped, turned around and left, but believe me, both I, and this woman, had no doubt that they weren't there to help.
I was scared out of my mind. Truly. The entire time I was in that house, my heart was not in my work because I was too worried about leaving and running the gauntlet back to my car.
I'm beginning to question the sanity of what I do. Is it worth my well-being to continue? My work area includes, with the exception of two zip codes, all of the metropolitan Detroit area (around 3,900 square miles). Last night, I've never been so afraid for myself in my life. While I do earn a little more money than I did working in a hospital, it's never been about the money. It's always been because I've felt called to do this--to honor and care for the souls leaving our world. I know that may sound silly and trite to some, but there is a need for people like me. I want to be able to do it, but I can't do it well if I feel unsafe.
Obviously, more than the usual pressures of the holidays will be on my mind during this week off. I have to find a solution to this conundrum.