By Lisa Agnoli, ADN, RN
On a fairly typical day at work last year, I ended my shift with another skills fair. But something stood out about this session. Sitting in a classroom listening to our new CNO speak, I especially took note of a line she quoted from “The Caring Moment,” by Jean Watson, PhD, RN: “What if we began to pause and realize that maybe this one moment with this one person is the very reason we’re here on Earth at this time.”
I struggled with burnout over the years, as many of us have, which can be caused by working long hours, not feeling appreciated, even the desire — and inability — to help everyone. And this statement offered a powerful message that gave me a different perspective. I took time to reflect over instances during my 35-year career when I felt I was meant to be on Earth as a nurse, and two moments stand out.
Eight years into my nursing career my sister-in-law came to my hospital to deliver her third child. When I went to her room for a visit during my lunch break, I saw two charcoal-colored legs presented for delivery. At the moment, no one was around, as they were delivering another child. Knowing that the meconium staining was a signal of fetal distress, I placed an oxygen mask on my sister-in-law’s face and helped deliver her son. The physician and staff came in at the end of the delivery. It was her third child and the baby arrived more quickly than expected. Over the next two decades, I often wondered if I had perhaps caused some unknown damage to his hips or if he was free of any long-term issues.
I hadn’t seen him in 16 years, but I recently went to visit the family and saw my nephew, Jason, now 6’5” and 260 pounds. He is healthy and extremely handsome, and his life is going well. He reminded me that I saved his life and expressed his gratitude. It was the reason I was on Earth that day and why I’m a nurse.
Another incident occurred 23 years into my career after having reached my goal of becoming a flight nurse paramedic. We were called to assist a woman who was pinned in her car on a freeway near Tampa, Fla. Based on where the woman was positioned in the car, extrication was expected to take hours. My partner and I immobilized her c-spine for over an hour by holding her head in place and putting a stabilizing collar around her neck. The fire department eventually freed her from the car.and she was transported to the hospital. After 15 months of hospitalization for a C1 burst fracture, a C3 subluxation and a hairline C4 fracture, she walked out of the hospital without any spinal issues. She was not paralyzed; she was able to walk and move all extremities. That was the reason I was on earth that day and why I am a nurse.
I believe that if every nurse learned about Watson’s theory of human caring, burnout would less prevalent. More of us would have a positive outlook on the nursing profession and understand we make a real difference.
I have no doubt that all nurses can recall events that help them understand why they were on Earth on a particular day. Reflect as I have and receive a renewed belief in your abilities and the profession. We matter and make a great impact on our patients, and they can make a lasting impression on us if we take the time to reflect.
Lisa Agnoli, ADN, RN, is a staff nurse at JFK Memorial Hospital, Indio, Calif.
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