By Louise Rogers, RN
My father once said, “If you make every patient feel a little more special than the one you just left, you’ll be doing a good job. Look for ways to help.” Before he passed away, my father had a lengthy resume as a cardiac patient. At the time I was thinking about becoming a nurse, and when I asked him what qualities make a good nurse, that’s what he told me. To be honest, maybe my journey in nursing is more about being that nurse — the one that would make my dad smile.
His words shaped my nursing career since 1977. Starting off on a med/surg floor — and at the time having up to 18 patients per shift — I practiced the mantra of “This patient is more special than the one I left.” I trained myself to answer questions such as “What is really bothering the patient?” and “What can I do to help?” It became a practice and after a few months it became routine.
It made me focus on the person I was in front of — and not focused on what I still had to do. The patient’s problem may seem small in comparison to the patient you just left, but that does not matter; you can’t compare your patients because each person has his or her own set of concerns.
If a patient is allowing you into his or her inner circle, then jump in and see how you can help. Look for ways to serve from the heart.
Being a nurse allows me many opportunities to help, but some of the most rewarding things I did were not in my job description.
On one occasion, I was working in the ED at 2 a.m. when an elderly man was admitted. His wife did not drive, and she really wanted to stay by her husband while he slept, so she dozed in the chair next to his bed. We were fairly busy, and after a while, I stopped back by the room to peek in on both of them. He was sleeping soundly and so was she. I grabbed a blanket from the warmer and gently tried to put it over her shoulders. She woke up enough to say, “Thanks, I was so cold,” and snuggled under the blanket. Her eyes showed pure gratitude, and it made me glad I had taken the time to do that. It was just a simple little act that, 10 years later, I’m still happy I did.
Practicing those words of advice from my father also helped me to focus on the person as a whole, not just the illness or condition.
Many times after an ED physician left a patient’s room, I would go in and spend time with him or her while starting an IV or explaining procedures or treatment expectations. I would find out pertinent details and I’d ask the physician, “Did he tell you this?” “Did he mention that?” Many times the answer was no, so over the years I developed a skill of making every moment with a patient count. Genuine caring and willingness to help shaped my practice — nursing from the heart was my goal.
If you truly care, nursing is the right profession for you. Technical skills and scientific knowledge are important in developing your knowledge base as a new nurse, and training with a good mentor is irreplaceable. But you need to stay focused on what’s in front of you and be sure to listen with your heart. •
Louise Rogers, RN, is a utilization review coordinator and transfer center nurse at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Calif.
To comment, email [email protected]