Some of you might remember my attempt at creating the Let me be your voice project. I just want to give bloggers a chance to speak their mind about subjects they felt a little too sensitive to post on their own blog, but important enough to be shared.
This post is a great example of words that shouldn’t go unsaid. The friend who shared this post with me is a goldenhearted nurse in doubt. Not doubting her vocation, but doubting her ability to do things right.
I know a lot of you Lovelies had your share of hospital stays, and met many nurses in the process… I hope you’ll read my good friend’s words, and leave your own thoughts in the comments!
I know it is a long post, but please take a few extra minutes to read this young and motivated health-worker’s words to patients she feels she has failed to help properly…
I have been a nurse for almost eight months now.
I have learned since the start that nurses often are divided into two categories by patients: good and bad.
Good and bad- such elementary, vague terms… yet they carry such weight when preceding the word “nurse”.
The good nurse takes time to empathize, to meet every need, to administer meds on time, and promptly respond when beckoned by the call light. The good nurse pays meticulous attention to detail, follows protocols, and builds rapport with their patients instantly. The good nurse is not rattled in any situation. The good nurse feels deeply, but knows how to not let it affect his or her own life and own well being . The “good” nurse is whom all aspire to be.
The bad nurse. The bad nurse makes mistakes. The bad nurse is the one who does not connect with her patients, burn out evident in her conversations, her inability to empathize. The bad nurse doesn’t come right when the patient calls nor does the bad nurse complete everything on time. The bad nurse loses her cool.
Those are quite terse descriptions.. the lists go on… and additionally, I know these would be expounded upon in different ways and be defined slightly differently by different patients. They are ideals, but the lines of truth are much more blurred.
Unfortunately, at eight months, I often wonder where I stand through my patient’s eyes. I know some patients have told me and their family, “She is such a good nurse”…. but there are other days where I know I have failed. It hurts, because I always want to be the good nurse, I want to be the best nurse.. but many times I come home after shifts thinking, “I wish I could have done x, y, and z differently”…
I think about the conversations these patients of mine might have with their friends over coffee or their family at home… I often wonder after shifts where I may not have had the time to truly connect with my patient, will I be pegged as the “bad” nurse?
I had my most brutal shift I have ever had this past Friday and haven’t been able to let it go since. I have spent the last couple days mulling over the events that transpired, and I wish so desperately I could just write a letter or sit down with a couple of my patients. I wish I could explain to them everything that was going on, the fact that we were short staffed, that my load was tremendously high and most of my patients were critically ill. Although I know this will never reach them, I need to share the words and emotions flooding my heart to these patients I failed this week and the other patients I have failed in the past.
To my dear patients I have failed,
I know you are probably not giving me a second thought. You may have even been relieved when another nurse showed up after me… I know I failed you. Although I did my best, I failed you in many ways. I wish I could have told you about everything going on that day, I wish I could have explained myself.
My dear patient, I know I was late with your pain meds, but a patient in the other room needed emergent blood. I wish I could have sent help, our float nurse, our charge nurse, a staff nurse… I called everyone.. everyone was busy… oh busyness… time….how I wish they weren’t factors in providing care. I was stuck. I hate that I couldn’t make it there more promptly. I’m sorry I failed you.
My dear patient, I know you had to wait to use the bathroom, and I struggled getting your brace on. I am so sorry that I am not more deft with the braces. I actually have only worked with a couple before, and this is one I haven’t worked with hardly at all. I wish it didn’t take me that long. I’m angry at myself and my lack of knowledge to get that brace on quickly and help you to the commode. I’m sorry I failed you, you just want to go to the bathroom after all.
My dear patient, you were refusing your tube feeds. You know you need this nutrition to live… I charted you refused, and let you have your way. I left the room and didn’t even discuss this with you beyond an “are you sure?”. I usually would fight this and sit down with you, begging you to receive the nutrition you need to live. But I had so many meds to pass and I hadn’t charted in hours…this situation has haunted me every day since. I am your advocate, I am your nurse, I should have looked you in the eye and pleaded with you to accept the feeds. I should have given you hope. I should have had this conversation with you and even if you stubbornly still refused, I should have held your hand and told you “I support you no matter what“. I’m sorry I failed you.
My dear patient, I lost it in front of you. My anxiety reared it’s head and I broke nurse the number one unspoken rule in nursing: Do not show your emotions in front of the patient. I’m supposed to be your rock. The anxiety was rooted in the fact that I was being pulled in a million directions, and the only thing I wanted to do was sit down and talk with you, pray with you. The anxiety wasn’t over the fact that my phone was ringing off the hook or that I had my other patient screaming down the hall for pain medications… the real reason was I wanted to check in with you and see how you were doing… I wanted to be present with you, but I couldn’t. I hate that I was in and out of your room so fast during the day because my other patient’s pressure was bottoming out and needed a fluid bolus. I hate that you probably felt like a checkbox on a checklist. I despise that. I’m sorry I failed you.
To my dear patients I have failed, I think about you often. I know I’m supposed to disconnect after work and not take it home with me. But, although any good nurse has figured out how to disconnect…there are times I allow the day and the emotions to follow me for days after. They often wake me up in the middle of the night.. I wonder if you are doing okay, if you are able to sleep through the night, if your pain is managed. I have even sobbed over your diagnosis, your situation. I’ve pulled over on the side of the road because tears cloud my view of the road. I get angry on your behalf and hate that your family has to go through this too. For one of you, I have begged God to remove your tumor, you’re only in your twenties.. it’s not fair. For another, I have prayed that you will be able to respond beyond just your name. I know we only knew each other for twelve hours, but those twelve hours will forever change my life, even if you just saw me as the frazzled woman that gave you your morning meds and a new pillow case that never was on time when you called for anything.
I know some days I fit more categories of the “bad” nurse… but I wish I could show you how much I care. I wish I had infinite time to sit with you and let you tell me everything you are thinking and feeling. I wish I could answer every call light right on time, comfort your family and answer all their questions perfectly, and be the best nurse. I am so sorry I have failed you. I know in your mind, I may be forever the “bad” nurse, but I need you to know that this nurse cares deeply. Deeper than a “good” nurse probably should. This nurse wants the absolute best for you. This nurse wishes she could give you everything in those twelve hours, because this nurse wants more than anything to give you back your world.
Maybe there is not such thing as a good or a bad nurse. Maybe there is only a nurse’s heart… and this nurse’s heart beats to keep yours beating, my dear patient.