"Putting your face on" is how one of my nursing instructors describes the preparation before going into a patient's room - creating a nonplussed expression that doesn't give way to the grossness, sadness, ugliness or awesomeness that we see every day. We have to remain professional ... at least until we get home.
When M got home tonight, I broke down and couldn't keep my "face" on any longer. Today my 85 y/o dementia patient got to me. More so, his well-to-do wife got to me. The way she looked at him. The way he smiled back with a senile expression. Her protectiveness, her gratefulness when I helped. I couldn't help but think about M and me ... and what it would feel like to have to go through all of that. It hurt, and I cried.
Then I called my grandma in PA - she fell recently and I wanted to call and check up on her. She probably won't remember I called, and she only stays on the phone for a bit, but I felt better when I got off. Like a bit of a weight was lifted.
Sigh. Nobody said nursing was going to be easy. (In fact, MANY MANY MANY people have told me otherwise.) But, I think it will be worth it.