One of the great joys of nursing has been remembering and sharing patient care stories.
As a seasoned nurse and nursing instructor, it has become difficult to recall how I felt in the beginning, especially about the patients for whom I cared during my first clinical rotation. The following stories were written by 21-year-olds who are junior nursing students from the Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah.
As the students neared the end of their first clinical rotation on a cardiac telemetry unit at The Valley Hospital, Ridgewood, N.J., I wanted them to see the difference that their earnest nursing care had made in their patients lives.
For their written assignment, I asked the students to think back and remember one patient whose spirit had touched their hearts over the past weeks. They had fresh, spontaneous perspectives that give anyone who reads them a feeling of appreciation for our future nurses.
Open Heart Surgery
The anesthesiologist directed me to a short stool on which I could stand. After I stepped up, the first thing that I noticed was a beating human heart right before my eyes. My jaw dropped so far down that I worried it might come out of the bottom of the mask.
The heart didnt look gross at all; in fact, it was a breathtaking sight. The lungs were inflating and deflating completely out of tune with the beating heart. The heart didnt make a sound, but defiantly outperformed any live concert Ive seen yet. It reminded me of a level in the Nintendo game Trauma Center, where you cut away an old aortic heart valve and insert a new one.
I was great at the game and passed that level on the first try. I had complained how simplistic the game made the procedure.
Looking back, I realize how much of an understatement that was! The most incredible part about the entire experience was in the end, when the open chest cavity was closed and the drapes were removed. There on the OR table I saw a patient live and in person. It was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.*
*It is not customary to send juniors to the operating room; however, Ashley made a passionate request to view an open-heart surgery and this wish was granted.
The patient assigned to me had dementia, something I had overlooked when doing my patient write-up the previous night. I have heard the phrase pleasantly confused; however, I couldnt say that I had ever seen or noticed anyone in that state.
I realized the extent of the problem after being with him for only a few moments. The patient calmly insisted that he didnt want breakfast until I returned from Boston. When I left and came back, a fellow nursing student reminded him to eat because I was back in the room.
He still wouldnt eat and kept offering us his breakfast. It was difficult to decipher his words at times. He talked about going hunting with his four sisters and how they had killed 30 or 40 deer in one day. He went on to say that he had his gun in the corner, and when I asked him why, he said, Where else should I put it? It was at this point that I left the room because I didnt want to laugh in his presence.
This patient taught me that while he may be confused, it doesnt mean that he is crazy or stupid, but rather that he is someone who is in need of help. It was nice to know that I was doing something for him just by listening and showing that I cared.
Cancer, Yet an Optimistic Spirit
A few weeks ago, I was taking care of a patient who suffered from head and lung cancer. Catherine* was an amazing woman. In addition to having cancer, she had triple vision in her left eye, as a result of a tumor compressing the optic nerve, and she had lost all of her hair during chemotherapy.
Although she was very sick, she was filled with an optimistic spirit. Catherine told me how in a matter of three days, during the fall of 2005, three of the closest people in her life her grandmother, sister, and mother had died. At first I couldnt believe that a terrible situation like this could happen. She told me that there is a time for everyone, and if she could handle these sad moments, she could handle her cancer.
She said that she had had a wonderful life and repeated many times that God had blessed her with many good things. I envisioned that cancer patients would be sad, depressed, and pessimistic. The day I met Catherine was a special day, and I will never forget her smile, optimism, and warm heart.
* The name has been changed.
The Simple Things
On my first day of clinical, I took care of a patient who had many problems. Laurie* had been a diabetic from the age of 22. At the age of 44, her left leg had been amputated below the knee and her peripheral vision was gone. Laurie had neuropathy in her hands and feet and had just had a fistula inserted so that she could begin dialysis in a few months.
I did not do anything spectacular for this patient; I assisted with AM care, which included brushing her hair. Laurie was so thankful for every little thing that I did. It really made me think; how could someone with so much going on in her life still be so thankful for something so simple? I realized that healthy people take everyday things for granted, like brushing our hair. When her father came in to visit, Laurie told him that, God had sent her an angel today. I dont think that I will ever forget this person or what she has taught me.
* The name has been changed
I hope that these stories have helped you to think about how you felt in the beginning of your career and to remember your nursing journey and the many patients lives that you have touched. As these students are learning, the caring nursing presence is a strong force. It touches, comforts, and brightens the moments and days of patients with limitless effects. May your success in nursing be measured by your kindness.