The Patient That Helped My Patience

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    This article is about a patient that had an effect on me as a new student nurse. When I was new to the game, I had a chip on my shoulder, and like many students, I have my moments of being stressed. This patient changed me that one day. He helped me hide the chip on my shoulder, he helped me gain appreciation for the little things in life. His courageousness made me better.

    People tell me I'm an easygoing guy. I can handle 3 exams in a week, or a multiple page paper that's length rivals something from Tolkien. However, we all have our breaking points, our moments when we enter a crossroad. We can either snap, or bite our lip. This was that kind of week.

    It was the week that I had one of the most high maintenance patients in the history of creation. He seriously called for me every 10 minutes, on the minute. I started to question whether he had an alarm or stopwatch set to the exact time.

    ďIs Adam there? Heís needed in room 21Ē

    I let out a sigh that could of bristled leaves off of the trees outside. Itís a hush of white noise that disquiets the static.

    The nurses around me float a grimaced hemi-lipped smirk in my direction. Our eyes lock as I peer upward from my downturned gaze of disbelief.


    Of course, again.

    Have you ever sat down to start a project, and the very second you get started, you get disrupted? Itís like putting down the baby to sleep, after sheís been crying for an hour, and the moment that silence darkens the room, the postman shows up and rings the doorbell.

    Chaos ensues.

    Thatís the kind of day Iíve been having. I havenít been able to chart, or finish looking up my medications, or work on my plan of care, or come up to answers to the dozen questions Iíve been assigned to today.

    Now Iím not one that really gets stressed, but Iíd like to attempt to finish ONE thing today. If for nothing else, then just to say I started AND finished something.

    Let me go see what he wants this time.

    I stop at the door, use the hand sanitizer, and get my mind right. I clear my head, and with my melting thoughts, my face becomes blank. I canít show him that Iím irritated; I have to be comforting and strong. Heís the one that could be hurting.

    Mr. Lewis, all 240 pounds of him, is tossed on his side in his bed. His gown is disheveled, his sheets and blanket thrown on the ground. He looks up at me, and says that he has to go to the bathroom.

    I knew thatís what he wanted before I came in. This is probably attempt number 17 in the past 2 hours.

    I really do feel bad for the guy though. Iíve never really had any problems with my GI system. Sure, weíve all be constipated or suffered from diarrhea, but this is different. He hasnít had a bowel movement in 4-5 days. Iím hoping it happens for him pretty soon.
    He needs to get up slowly, because due to his condition and some of the medications heís on, his blood pressure can drop if he rises too fast. He can get dizzy, or light headed, or nauseous.

    I donít want any of those things to happen, because they all require some part of him to fall, and probably fall on top of me. Heís a much bigger guy than me. Big crushes not as big. Thatís just science.

    I help him stand, remind him to steady himself for a second, and let it all settle in. Itís like embarking on some new foreign land, itís better to take in the scenery, plan your next move. We move in tandem over to the toilet where he semi-plants himself.
    Whew. Now I partly close the door and wait.


    I debate in my mind whether itís better to leave the room for a while and have him call when heís ready to get up. Iíve done that before, itís not that big of a deal. Heís safe and fine on the toilet.

    But, I know that every time Iíve done that, he calls for me the minute I step out of the room. Itís weird how that happens, but thatís just the way life works sometimes. Itís like the kid that spills orange juice all over the place right after youíve cleaned the floor.
    I hear a grunt, a gurgle, and a semi-scream. Ok, now Iím a little intrigued and worried at the same time. Itís important not to overexert yourself in situations like this. Some people Ďover pushí on the toilet.

    TMI, right? Well, itís true.

    I knock on the door and enter.

    The man looks enthusiastic and relieved. Thereís a glisten of sweat on his bald head.
    I think he did it.

    ďHow do you feel? Did you do it?Ē

    He nods up and down slowly, a mouth full of smiling teeth.


    I jump up and down inside my head. I want to high five him, but I know I canít. That whole feces and bare hands thingÖ not a fan.

    I tell him Iím really happy for him, and we sort of bond there, while in the bathroom. The look on his face almost says ďThank God thatís over. I feel so bad for making you come in here every 5 minutes to help meĒ.

    I know that sounds like a complicated look, but thatís really the feeling that his stare gave me.

    I respond with a look that says ďItís ok, Iíve never been in your spot, but I understand that it must have been really hard, and basically suckedĒ.

    He finishes up, and we travel back over the bed together. He flops himself onto the mattress, a look of triumph and reward still radiates through.

    And within a minute and a half, the man is passed out sleeping. Heís silent except for the rushing sounds of air in and out of his lungs.

    The chip on my shoulder broke off and fell onto the ground right at that moment. This man changed me. He helped me work on my patience for patients. He made me appreciate the little abilities we have that we take for granted. He made me learn to work hard.

    I tilt my head to the side and let out an inside laugh.

    Itís the little things that make your day.

    I think we both had a good day today.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jul 16, '12

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    About Loque

    I'm a second semester nursing student that enjoys helping others and learning more about myself. I have many hobbies, and am considering writing a book about my experiences as a male nursing student.

    From 'NY'; Joined Feb '11; Posts: 52; Likes: 40.

    Read more articles from Loque

    10 Comments so far...

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    This brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of my Dad. He was so sick, for so long and often had this same problem. He was embarassed and hated asking for help, but was not able to do much for himself. Once I arrived at the hospital to find him sitting in a pool of blood because he didn't want to bother his nurse again. Thank you for sharing this.
    virgo,student nurse likes this.
  4. 1
    I liked this. A lot.
    virgo,student nurse likes this.
  5. 1
    Great story!
    virgo,student nurse likes this.
  6. 0
    Great story! Thanks for sharing
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    You will discover when you get older yourself exactly why that generation is so bowel obsessed.It has happened to me and I am only 50 (ish) I have a window of time every afternoon after I get home and a routine I follow that always brings me success.If something prevents me from following that routine (happy hour or a double shift ) then I am in trouble.
    I love how you bonded over BM-nothing brings on that comaraderie faster.....
  8. 1
    Thank you so much for sharing this. I will try to remember this when my time comes for needed patience. It isn't about us, it is about the person we are caring for.
    Shorty11 likes this.
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    Wow! So well written and engaging Loque! It is a good reminder that something that is small and annoying to us can be huge to someone else. I had a little old lady patient who came into the ED one day with constipation and I really felt for her - my mom has that problem too - and I talked to her about what we could do to get her immediate relief and then changes in diet, etc...When she left she cried and hugged me, saying, "I know it's just constipation, but you're the only one who really seemed to care how miserable I am."
  10. 0
    Quite helpful. Just today, I had an experience with a patient and nearly lost my cool. It was very distressing.Thanks for sharing this
  11. 0
    Thanks for the comments everyone. I'm glad so many people can relate to my story, and it's nice to hear to each and every one of you.

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