My Most Humbling Nursing Experience - page 2

by cienurse 15,026 Views | 22 Comments

Nursing is a very busy and rewarding career. During my 36 years, I have had many experiences in which I have been exhilarated, saddened, overwhelmed, and just plain exhausted. None, however, compare to the night that I was... Read More


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    After 35 yrs. of nursing my most humbling experience happened just the other night on the Alzheimer's Unit where I work. I was nearly finished with a 12 hr. shift and I was helping the residents finish up dinner. I bent down to hug one resident in particular who has severe Alzheimer's/dementia and expressive aphasia and rarely is able to form a two word sentence that can be understood as other than gibberish. She plainly said to me, "Thank you for caring for old people". I immediately burst into tears! We so often go through our shifts with no appreciation from anyone....that meant more to me than anything anyone has ever said to me!!
    AheleneLPN, cienurse, IowaKaren, and 1 other like this.
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    Beautiful and helps remind me of the work I do as a Hospice RN. Thank you for your story .
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    Quote from BrandonLPN
    In some ways being a nurse is like being a defense lawyer. Every convicted person deserves an impartial defense. The guilty and the innocent. The rapist and the shoplifter. Likewise, every patient deserves impartial, competent care. The saints and the jerks alike. You can despise a patient and still provide quality nursing care.
    Brandon-- perfectly put! OP-- thanks for sharing your story. We need more nurses like you out there!!!!!
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    Quote from BrandonLPN
    In some ways being a nurse is like being a defense lawyer. Every convicted person deserves an impartial defense. The guilty and the innocent. The rapist and the shoplifter. Likewise, every patient deserves impartial, competent care. The saints and the jerks alike. You can despise a patient and still provide quality nursing care.

    Well said! I agree.
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    Very humble experience!!! Nursing, indeed, is very challenging but rewarding career!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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    Reminding me why I had become a nurse in the first place: to provide care and comfort to the sick, to heal when I could, to provide comfort when I couldn’t, and to practice nursing in a compassionate and non-judgmental way.
    Nicely put! A great way to sum up why nursing is such an awesome career
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    Beautiful story!! I'm a brand new nurse and have only been working as one for a little under a month now. I'm going to save this story for times I know will come where I will start to forget the reason why I became a nurse in the first place. I don't ever want to lose my compassion for those that depend on me to take care of. Thank you for this story. It's a must have for new and seasoned nurses alike.
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    This thread should be required reading in all nursing and med schools and read and signed by all employees as part of orientation into a nursing or medically related job!
    Quote from cienurse
    Nursing is a very busy and rewarding career. During my 36 years, I have had many experiences in which I have been exhilarated, saddened, overwhelmed, and just plain exhausted. None, however, compare to the night that I was humbled right in the place I stood at the bedside of a young man who was dying of AIDS. Here is that story:

    I was working full time on the night shift at a chronic care hospital. Most of the patients I was taking care of were in the end stages of HIV infection, most with accompanying dementia and behaviors which were out of their control. These patients did not sleep through the night; there were many with med-seeking behaviors, belligerence, cigarette privileges which went through the night time hours, in addition to physical limitations such as insomnia and incontinence that come with end stage disease process.

    Sadly, most of the patients were under the age of 40 and the job was more emotionally draining than physical, particularly when one of these young persons died.

    There was one patient in particular, a 26 year old male, who seemed always to be arguing with staff, refusing his HIV medications while demanding more and more pain medications, and disturbing the unit often enough to elicit many complaints from the other patients. When he didn’t get his way, he would call the staff vulgar names in a very loud voice, would spit at staff, and become physically aggressive. I had to keep reminding myself that he was very young and very sick, and was extremely angry at life and was facing his own mortality.

    Still, I would dread going to work at night, knowing that this young man would be up half the night, screaming obscenities until he got what he wanted, either medication, cigarettes, or take-out food. To put it bluntly, he was not my favorite patient and it was a real effort to provide care for him objectively and non-judgementally on a consistant basis.

    One evening, I arrived for my shift at 10:45 p.m. as usual. As I was putting away my belongings in my locker, one of the 3-11 nurses came in to the locker room and told me they were having a problem with this particular patient and could I please come and help them. I remember that I rolled my eyes and reluctantly followed the nurse into this young man’s room. There were 2 other staff members who were gowned, gloved, and masked trying to remove sweat pants from this patient, who had been incontinent of a large, bloody stool. His body was limp and he was barely breathing. I gowned up and moved to one side of the bed to assist in turning him over so that we could clean him, all the while wondering what had happened.

    As the nurse on the other side of the bed rolled him toward me, he was so weak and limp that I put my arm under his head to cradle it while easing his lower body over onto his side. He was so thin! I looked down into his eyes while my arm cradled his head. He seemed to look up at me with eyes that were half closed and then…….this young man took his last breath and passed away!

    My eyes immediately began to fill up with tears-I felt I had just been sent a message from a power higher than myself, reminding me why I had become a nurse in the first place: to provide care and comfort to the sick, to heal when I could, to provide comfort when I couldn’t, and to practice nursing in a compassionate and non-judgmental way. To this day, when I encounter a difficult resident, I always remember that experience and, instead of becoming annoyed, I treat that resident with extra patience, kindness, and compassion.
    Last edit by Esme12 on Oct 18, '12 : Reason: formatting
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    This is a nursing website, sick patients deserve compassion and kindness no matter how difficult they are. This guy was sick and scared so he lashed out
    Last edit by Esme12 on Oct 18, '12 : Reason: ToS
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    Thank you for providing a compassionate posting. It makes me proud to have entered the nursing profession over 30 years ago and finding compassionate peers is wonderful to see. It makes me even more wanting to proceed with my doctoral work on compassion fatigue, to ensure that those nurses who have compassion remain in nursing and receive the help they need and deserve. Compassion fatigue should not stay in the way of providing compassionate, care to the sick who only deserve the best.


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