So I recently got one of “those” patients. You know the kind of patient I’m talking about. She was in the fetal position upon arrival from EMS, and I wasn’t surprised one bit. I had been apprised of the situation via report from the transferring facility so I knew what to expect. She was moaning and groaning in pain, and cursing a blue streak of multiple expletives as we transferred her to the awaiting bed. Her drug toxicology screen had lit up like a Christmas tree, but as was par for the course, she had told the ER she didn’t abuse drugs. I had seen it so many times before, and I approached her bed cautiously.
She glared up at me through squinted, distrustful eyes, and I wondered if that was the same look she gave the nurse who had called me report. She had spoken of kicking, screaming, and refusal of care. Now it would fall on me to try and insert a nasogastric tube in a combative patient. Lucky.
There are so many different types of patients you encounter in the field of nursing, and there are so many different skill sets a nurse can provide. Each nurse has that one thing they absolutely love about the field, and then we all have those things we absolutely hate. As I gazed upon my new patient guarding her rigid and distended belly I knew I would get to do my favorite skill of bedside nursing. And no, it wouldn’t be shoving a large tube into this woman’s stomach.
As I approached her bed I made eye contact, and in a low, sympathetic tone I began to speak with her. I started by explaining every anticipated move I would make, and I spoke sincere apologies and empathy for the pain she was enduring. I encouraged her, I attempted my very best to calm her fears, and I didn’t allow things like my observations of the apparent meth scars on her body to cloud my ability to treat her like any other patient under my care.
After asking her permission I began to pray with her as I attached monitoring equipment, and this seemed to settle her nerves even more. I used a gentle touch, but most importantly I used genuine affection. She responded to that.
Over the years as a bedside nurse I have found my favorite skill to be interpersonal. I love the feeling of starting an IV successfully, and there’s definitely a rush of pride when you save a life. But I believe my favorite part of nursing is communicating worth to those who feel worthless, offering love to those who need it most, and giving dignity to every single person I encounter.
Some of my greatest moments in nursing I have not even realized until afterwards. It’s the months later when I receive a call from a former addict who had landed as an overdose in my hospital bed, when they say, “you made me want to be clean for me. No one ever spoke to me like you did. You made me feel like I mattered in this world.”
It’s when I hear by word of mouth in the community that a former patient is telling people, “I’ve always felt like garbage, but this nurse up there, Brie, she treated me like a queen.”
I suppose you never know the impact your kind words can have on another. Sometimes they may have no positive impact whatsoever that you can see, but I keep at it just in case. I try to remember that each patient who lands in my bed is someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, husband or wife. I try to shine the light of my faith in their dark circumstances, and show the characteristics of Christ. I’m quite certain I fall terribly short of this on many a busy day, but I try.
On this particular day I started with a cussing, kicking “drug addict,” but I ended my shift with a kind, well-spoken, troubled woman. She lay still while I inserted a tube into her nose and down into her stomach, she politely asked for pain medication, and she profusely thanked me when it was time for me to go home. I knew as I left that I had in no way solved even half of her problems, but I had made her feel important and special while she was under my care. Something about that just makes me step a little lighter when I walk out of the hospital and head for home. That’s why it’s my favorite part of nursing. It doesn’t feel like a job. It just feels like the right thing to do.