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exploring the zen of emergency nursing
exploring the zen of emergency nursing

DemZen's posts

"OwnTheResus" by @cliffreid. Wonderfully informative video, and very nice example of how to avoid death by powerpoint.

Mindful of WHAT?

DEM: Whenever I walk down the hospital corridor from the tea room to the emergency department, I try to remind myself to “be mindful”. I straighten my posture, breathe more slowly, focus my attention. Then I turn the corner and walk into the barely-controlled bedlam of DEM, and mindfulness is shattered. Faced with the intensity of noise, action, and people in pain, my attention is pulled in a hundred directions - and later I wonder.... what should I be mindful of in this situation?

ZEN: During zazen, a simple sitting meditation, I focus on my breath. When I do walking meditation I focus on how my feet encounter the earth as I arrive in each moment. It should be easier to stay mindful in quiet, peaceful surroundings, you would think. At least I have something simple to focus my attention on. Even so, there are hundreds of distractions lurking in the constant stream of my thoughts. Today I am haunted by the colour of a mother’s eyes as she begged me to tell her that her son would be okay.

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"Previous studies have shown that experienced Zen meditators have significantly higher pain thresholds and that meditation training can reduce the anxiety associated with intense discomfort."

DEM: 40yo patient presents after tumbling down a flight of stairs, having previously drunk three bottles of wine. Bruised, uncooperative, shaken and bleeding. History of alcohol abuse.

Zen: a woman my age, with a son who is the same age as mine. Clutching my hand as the cut next to her eye is sutured. Desperate for understanding. Has a chuckle that warms the soul. Clung to me like a drowned kitten when leaving for home.

Made a connection that may not be remembered, but I feel good about how I nursed tonight.

DEM: "pain is whatever the patient says it is"

Nurse: "Please rate your pain out of ten, with zero being no pain, and ten being the worst pain you can imagine". Patient: "fourteen". Nurse: goes off to bang forehead against nearest wall.

Zen: "When painful times come we want to push them away, numb ourselves, withdraw. But this is not the way of Zen. From the Zen point of view we must learn how to hold all of life in the palm of our hands." (The Whole World Is Medicine: Suffering From The Zen Point Of View by Brenda Shoshanna).

Can the zen point of view about pain be incorporated into the pain management approach of emergency medicine?

Defining DEM: (department of emergency medicine) a section of an institution that is staffed and equipped to provide rapid and varied emergency care, especially for those who are stricken with sudden and acute illness or who are the victims of severe trauma. (Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier).

Defining Zen: One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts. (Urban Dictionary).

I am a novice at both zen and emergency nursing, so this page will be my personal exploration of how two such divergent parts of my life meet. Can Zen thrive in the chaos of DEM? How might the practice of zen complement and support my practice as an emergency nurse? I'm looking forward to delving into these and other questions. Hopefully this page will also become a repository of useful information, links, quotes and interaction for anyone interested in either or both of my twin passions.
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