When The Nurse Becomes The Patient

This week we welcome new writer Ciara O’Meara to MS and Me. Read on for her unique perspective on the MS patient experience. 

A 23 year old, 4th year student nurse is a dangerous thing. You know too much but not enough. You’re an integral part of the ward but not yet qualified. You’re still a student but yet expected to be a responsible adult. Throw a diagnosis of MS into the mix and it’s chaos!

When the general consultant said, “Ciara, we think it’s MS”, my initial reaction was ‘They are going to keep me in now for tests and I am going to miss the nurses ball’.

When my neurologist gave me the official diagnosis, I knew it before he did. I had read the MRI report upside down on the table and got a good peripheral read of the medical notes all within the time it took him to wash his hands and grab a biro. When I told one of my closest nursing colleagues about my diagnosis she said, “Right, will we go for a pint?” Typical Nurses one might say. But that is exactly what I needed; I needed to be a typical nurse. I needed to focus on the end goal, Graduation and Registration. I had a ward that needed me, patients that needed me and I needed to get through this for me. 

Trying to find the balance between ‘nurse’ and ‘patient’ is not easy. I am quick to give advice to others, but slow to take my own. I passionately care for others, but often neglect to care for myself.  I find it difficult to be the vulnerable patient, sitting on the chair in the Tysabri clinic, watching the nurses’ draw up the infusion, insert the cannula and start the pump. That should be me. I was trained to look after Ciara as The Nurse; I wasn’t equipped to look after Ciara as The Patient. 

However with that said, I wouldn’t change being a nurse for anything. Nursing gave me experience, knowledge and patience to deal with, and accept, my diagnosis. It gave me access to evidence based scientific research, access to multi-disciplinary team members and access to resources and supports that I might have otherwise been unaware of. Nursing has given me confidence to deal with challenging situations and to question care-delivery and practice.

And as much as nursing has given me, MS has now given me that extra advantage, that little edge over others. MS has made me a better nurse. I won’t ever know why MS decided to land at my front door but its arrival has produced a more caring, empathetic, appreciative, sensitive and inquisitive nurse.  I now just need to ensure that this nurse starts to prioritise and care for her most important patient… Me!