Often we overlook the most important aspect of our careers as nurses. In my observation of nurses dealing with patients on a day-in/day-out basis I have become attuned to the tendency of “mechanized” medical care as a commonplace occurrence. It is not an intentional practice as we have all chosen this career path due to our love of caring for individuals in need of help, but the practice is unacceptable nonetheless. In choosing a career as noble and honorable as nursing, having the responsibility of being trusted to care for those who are stricken with illness should always be considered the core of our profession. However, we sometimes overlook the feelings of patients as individuals in our role as caregivers. It is imperative that we, by whatever means necessary, take the time to remember that the duty of the nurse is the pinnacle of patient care. While physicians diagnose and treat illness, nurses are responsible for the care and wellbeing of the patient as a fellow human being. Far too often nurses become caught up in the institution of a hospital, and by that, fail to remember it is we who are the very heart and soul of that institution. We are the believers.
Every once in a while there comes a situation that reminds us what it really means to be the patient. This is usually a rare time when someone else is responsible for caring for us. I have one such example which offered me an opportunity to take a step back and realize just how frightening medical care can be for the patient. I would like the opportunity to share it with you.
I had a perplexing reaction in a doctor’s office during an appointment to start the course of vaccinations required for my nursing career. Mind you, I have always had an uneasy feeling of the doctor’s office stemming from my association of the white coated doctor and paper covered examination table equating to something being wrong. My blood pressure skyrockets concurrently with an elevation in pulse but this is the extent of my reaction. That is until this day. As the nurse came into the room with a clipboard serving as a tray to five syringes I sat quietly without the slightest inkling that my calm condition was to change in the very near future. I watched the nurse as he prepared the first of the syringes, the tuberculosis test given just under the surface of the skin, and offered my forearm up for the injection. As he inserted the needle I felt fine. It wasn’t until I saw the bubble rise on the surface of the skin that things went down hill fast. Instantly, I went white with sweat running profusely from my face. I removed myself from the table and sank to the floor as my vision spotted white. I was terrified and I had no clue as to why this was happening. After reassurance from the nurse that there was no danger, I lifted myself into a chair knowing there were four more shots still to come. I closed my eyes, the sweat now making water marks on both my pants and shirt, and prepared myself as much as possible for the next shot. With each additional shot came the same terror. When it was over I was required to sit and collect myself for twenty minutes so I did not faint. It was one of the most traumatic personal events I remember in my adult life. After leaving the clinic I half racked my brain for explanations and half tried to think of how I could make it through the last two series of vaccinations I still had to complete my immunity. At this point I had no answers. The next time I went I had my wife accompany me to see if that would alleviate the problem. It did nothing.
During the span of the six months from start to finish I searched and searched for an explanation with no real answers. On the last visit, I only had one shot to get this time and willed myself to finish, I decided to ask the nurse why this could be happening to me. I told her I had not been afraid of needles since I was a child, having no trouble with even a shot in the eye a few years ago, but was all of a sudden deathly afraid of them again. I ended by telling her that I was quite embarrassed that I was going to be a nurse who was afraid of shots. This made her laugh. It was in her taking the time to sit with me and explain this both being a common occurrence and a manifestation drummed up from childhood that I found my answer. She said I was afraid of shots as a child, grew out of it as I got older, and something since the last peaceful injection resurfaced my fear of shots being unsafe. As I thought for a moment it became clear what triggered the fear reaction. Microbiology class! She was right. She gave me some exercises to do before the shot, talked me through the safety of what she was putting in my body, and calmed me by allowing me to face my fears and work through them. My shot was a breeze. I’ve had another since and still no reaction what-so-ever. Today I am still astounded that something I was afraid of as a child could surface so profoundly out of the clear blue as an adult but it has helped me to realize that we truly are a product of experience.
I had a revelation from my experience which I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I learned the value of a nurse as a caregiver. In other words, within the care of two nurses I was given insight into the difference between a “good nurse” and an “average nurse”. I realized the profound effect that a “good” nurse can have far beyond the walls of a hospital in a patient’s life. The nurse who continued to administer shots during my anxiety without taking the time to “care for me” made me feel as though I was being rushed through an assembly line while the nurse who was interested in helping me beyond the scope of the requirement for employment saved me from a considerable hardship in life which I may not have ever sorted out without her. In her taking the time to comfort me and help me to the best of her ability she alleviated my stress and helped me to solve a problem; both of which I will always remember and love her for doing. In retrospect, I can see that her actions were selfless and had benefits for me which she was never aware. Let me explain. Before going in for my last shot I made a decision that if the situation dictated the same result in anxiety as the previous ones, I was going to speak to a physician concerning the prescribing of something to help me cope with injections in the future. It was this nurse that helped me to circumvent this course of action and allow me to face a fear rather than just treat the symptoms of that same fear. I can only believe that each of us is blessed with the desire to go above and beyond what is required to do all we can for our patients.
In the monotony of our work days that give them the illusion of running together at times, there are things which we must remind ourselves at all times are by no means monotonous. These “things” are not really “things” at all. They are people. They are individuals, each patient unique, which make them different from any other as well as from us. No matter if you have an example of your own that you use to remember what it means to be in their position or your welcome use of mine, try to remember the next time you see a face as you enter a room that it belongs to a human being and that human being is in dire need of all that you have to give.
Last edit by Joe V on Apr 4, '08