You might have read my latest “Let me be your voice” post.
It is an open letter from a dear friend of mine, starting her career as a nurse. Despite the countless hours spent at the hospital, her goodwill and incredible sense of care, she feels she fails her patients. She feels like a bad nurse.
That really saddens me.
As I told my friend, I really don’t think she can ever fall in the “bad nurse” category. I will not idealize the profession, there are people who shouldn’t work in the field. People who shouldn’t work as nurses anymore… But all in all, my experiences with nurses have almost always been positive.
I have spent what I consider more than my fair share of time in a hospital for my age. I’ve had time to watch nurses and doctors, but also patients.
I know most “good nurses” will want to tell that there are no “bad patient”… That people suffer, and that they don’t mean to be unpleasant. I disagree. Although some patients might be temporarely annoying because of pain, or medication (I know I have been that patient at times), there are some people who are just pain in the butts! Patients that will push their alarm button for no reasons, people who expect to be served as if they were in a five stars hotel. People who’ll yell and disturb every living soul until they get the attention they think they deserve.
I remember how bad I wanted to walk to the next room and tell that kind of patient “Ding ding ding! Wake up call, Mr Cranky! We’re ALL sick in here!! Suck it up for an hour or twelve!” Unfortunately IVs and the like make a quick run down the corridor a bit complicated.
I felt bad for the people who had to deal with that kind of incredibly annoying patients. They weren’t a majority (thank God) but they required constant care to keep the rest of the department quiet.
On top of that, it is no secret that hospitals are often working on low staff. Meaning clearly too many patients per nurse. It isn’t surprising that anything going wrong with one patient will deprive all the others from a part of their own nursing time. Nurses can’t be in two places at once. It is just a fact… Because my pain medication is due doesn’t mean that nothing will happen in all the other rooms, just so I can take my pills at the given time.
There are though, as I mentionned, people who shouldn’t work in the field of medicine. I remember one nurse in particular… I had been recieving pain killers in the form of shots for a while, and when she entered my room one night, she announced that I’d now be taking pills instead.
First of all, she refused to talk to me in French. It might not mean much to some, but I was very offended that she wouldn’t make the effort to make things easier for me, when she obviously could communicate with me in French. I mean, we are in Québec, and I highly doubt she could even work in a hospital without basic French knowledge. Of course I knew English, but when in pain, you’d rather stick to your roots.
What really put her in the “bad nurse” category was her reaction when I refused to take the pills. In my best “in pain” English, I explained that I was recovering from a pulmonary embolism that had occured when choking on a pill a couples of weeks back. The coughing had provoked the blood cloth to get stuck in my lung. And let me tell you, that is not a feeling you want to experience! I really thought I would die…
For this very babyish reason, I was not thrilled to swallow two rather large pills, even if they were strong pain killers. I asked if she could grind them or at least cut them in halfs so I’d be more comfortable swallowing them. I was ready to wait, I didn’t mind at all, but she kept arguing untill she agreed rolling her eyes and sighing loudly.
On the other side, I have known incredible nurses… Many good ones, but a couple that, I believe, deserve that I mention them because even if they never read this (what would be the odds??) I want to thank them openly for their extra special care!
And I hope, my dear friend, walking in their steps, that you’ll see how good nurses can make an impression on their patients, even if they meet them in critical moments of their lives, and even after time has passed….
First there was the ICU staff, especially Nissa and Guy (I am using their real names, just in case they’d ever lay eyes on this, and to show that yes, I do remember them clearly. Even after about fifteen years, and even if I was heavily medicated back then… LOL)
Nissa was a lovely young woman, with tanned skin and very dark eyes and hair. She was always smiling. Guy was I’d say in his late thirties, maybe early forties, and incredibly caring at all times. He always had a joke coming, and made the ICU ambiance a lot lighter when he worked.
I had been been in bed for several days, not allowed to make the slightest exercise, because after my embolism, my heart had kept beating as if I was running a constant marathon. One morning, Guy and Nissa came to announce I could try a little walking around the room. It wasn’t an easy thing though, because I was plugged to so many bipping machines and had so many tubes stuck in me that it required two polls to attach all my medical gears.
When I was finally able to get off the bed, I walked with their help. I was allowed to pass the ICU department doors to get to the hallway and come back. I remember how I started singing “Take me out to the hallway” on the famous baseball song notes, and we all thought it was very funny…
At that time, having very serious stomach problems, I wasn’t even allowed to swallow water. I totally depended on my IVs, and that lasted almost two weeks. At one point, my mouth got so dry that I thought I’d go crazy… I just wanted to feel water in my mouth again.
Guy walked to my bed one day, with a long tube in a hand, and a glass of water in the other. I couldn’t care less about the tube, but the glass caught my full attention right away! “I think I figured something out, you might enjoy” he said… And he started working with the tube in the pannel behind my head. There happened to be a kind of sucking device in the wall, and connecting the tube to it, it looked a little like the vacuum thingy dentists use. I could take water in my mouth, and then suck it out with the tube! Simple, but genius!
Guy also took care of the pediatric department from time to time, and since Halloween was coming, he was painting decorations for the kids during his breaks… I could see him from my bed and I kept telling him how lucky those kids were to have him as a nurse. On Halloween day, he showed up with one of his paintings, and taped it in my window… I still have it to this day.
There’s another special nurse I want to write about. Maria was a strongly built woman that looked a little rough at first sight. When I met her, I was in isolation, because doctors hadn’t found out what was wrong with me at the time, and they suspected I had C. Difficile… I had hardly no visit, my family being an hour and a half drive from the hospital, and the only people allowed in my room had to dress up almost like astronauts. Maria was my night nurse. We quickly developped a good connection, and I was always happy to see her, even if it was short in time. One evening, she came in with bad news. After a whole day of tests of all sorts, doctors had come to the conclusion that I was losing blood, but they didn’t know where I was bleeding.
As I explained in previous posts, I have a complete disdain for anything blood and blood system related. I am not afraid of it, but I am just disgusted with all of it. A blood transfusion was probably the worse news I could get (no… dialysis would be, but transfusion was a close second) and there she stood, with a bag of blood, and she wouldn’t take no for an answer… I felt horrible. I knew I couldn’t keep Maria with me through the whole procedure (maaaan these little bags take forever to get empty!!) but she cut on time with other patients to visit me regularly during the night, and sit a minute with me to chat and turn my attention away from the fact that I was getting new blood (ohhh yuck!)
I would have many more stories to tell… But these are the most memorable to me.
I think all I am trying to say here, is that over the years, the memory of the pain and long hours spent alone in my hospital bed have faded. But what I remember vividly are these special attentions I got from time to time. I don’t remember when my meds were late, or when one particular nurse had to rush to take my vitals signs, because she was required elsewhere… That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make people “bad nurses”… (Most) patients know that nurses are super busy, and often behind schedule.
But my friend, if you take time, once in a while, to give a little extra to one patient… If you always do your best to enter the room with this bright smile of yours… If you always work with caring intentions (and I know you already do)…
You ARE a good nurse. And people will remember you 🙂