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Manteca nurse makes a difference

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Manteca nurse makes a difference

Van Staaveren

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POSTED July 20, 2009 1:00 a.m.
As a little girl born and raised in the Philippines, Ruth (Hosain) Van Staaveren enjoyed helping her “Lola” (grandmother) with household chores, running errands and whatever else she needed.  Recognizing her granddaughter’s obliging nature, she suggested that Ruth become a nurse when she grew up since she was good at taking care of people.  
Leaving the comforts of her Lola’s home and moving to the United States as a teenager Ruth faced extreme culture shock along with the sadness from having to be separated from her parents and siblings for a time.  The difficult adjustment left Ruth feeling unsettled about her future but as she grew into adulthood her grandmother’s career suggestion regularly came to mind.  
Briefly considering other careers she began taking education courses for the possibility of becoming a kindergarten teacher but didn’t find it as fulfilling as she had hoped.  Her second choice was to pursue the possibility of becoming a flight attendant until she learned that attendants must be at least 5-foot-4. At  5-foot even Ruth didn’t meet the requirement and so she began to seriously consider her Lola’s words.
Ruth began applying to nursing programs while praying for direction. By the time her acceptance letter from Merced College arrived in the mail, she was certain that nursing was her calling.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t easy.  Fainting after the first time she saw blood, her instructor asked her emphatically, “Are you sure you want to be a nurse?”  The incident left Ruth determined to succeed.
“Nursing school was a very stressful time for me.  I had no life, only studying so I could pass.”  She recalls. After many long days and sleepless nights Ruth graduated in 1998 and began her nursing career.  
Beginning at St. Agnus in Fresno and for the past five years working at Kaiser Hospital in Manteca in the Intensive Care Unit, Ruth has collected many memories from her experiences with patients.  Once while working in a psych unit with a woman diagnosed with manic-depression, Ruth needed to find a way to build trust with her patient in order to administer medication.  While the patient sat staring blankly out a window Ruth introduced herself and instead of forcing the patient to talk, Ruth simply began sharing her own struggles.   She told the patient of the many emotional and physical challenges she deals with as a nurse and how overwhelming it can all be at times.   Her openness caused the patient to respond in a caring manner. From Ruth’s honesty, trust was built and steps towards healing for the patient began.
To her delight, in addition to helping patients, many of them have helped her.  When pregnant and dealing with morning sickness a number of years ago, one of Ruth’s patients put aside her own discomfort long enough to hand a spit bucket to her nurse who was looking a little green.  Years later, Ruth ran into the patient, introduced her son and the two shared a hug.
Honesty and humor on the job has proven to work well for the nurse as she was reminded recently when bathing a cancer patient who after chemotherapy and had lost all her hair.  “I was giving her a sponge bath and I lifted her arm and said…Well there’s something to think about, no armpit hair.”  Both nurse and patient shared a much needed chuckle in the midst of a very serious situation.
While most of her memories with patients are pleasant ones, such as the joy she shared not long ago with a 95-year old patient who had recently gotten married to a 90-year-old, not all of her memories are pleasant.  
“When patients are under medication and begin to come out of it, they don’t always know where they are and so they’re very confused and afraid,” she said, recalling how one very large male patient saw her walking into his dimly lit room and screamed, “Who are you?” then jumped from his bed, lunged toward her and pinned her to the wall out of fear.  
With diversity being the nature of a nurse’s career, Ruth’s future goal is to work as a hospice nurse.
“It’s not for everybody” she states, speaking of the support and care she would offer patients in the final phase of a terminal illness.  Although the first death of a patient she ever experienced brought her to uncontrollable tears, until the family of the patient reassured her that all was well, Ruth sincerely believes working in Hospice will be a significant part of her career.  
“Being able to comfort a patient and their family by holding hands, singing songs and praying together while reflecting on the patient’s life in the final hours is very special,” she confides.
When asked how she is able to switch gears from the physical and emotional demands of twelve hour shifts as a nurse to her home life as a happy wife and mother, Ruth said, “I cry on the way home.” Having a great deal of faith and family support has also been significant in keeping her balanced. “I am very proud to be a nurse” she said.  “I am able to get up every day, go to work and give the best care to others that I can.  I know I am making a difference.”

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