A Phone Call - page 3

She called my name down the hallway. To me, at the other nurses’ station. Why she did that, I don’t know. I had a phone next to me. She’s the unit secretary. Why doesn’t she know my extension? “You have a phone call. Johnson’s... Read More

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    From a patient's family point of view- when my mom was dying of ovarian cancer, the VERY BEST thing for her was bathing! I was her constant "nurse" even though she was getting decent care at the ECF that she stayed at briefly. I knew which time was her last "real" bath- she barely tolerated it at all.....it took her a good 45 minutes to recover from the effort. It was bed baths from that point on... The few times the nurses did what you described- soaking the bed and making a total mess in order to make her happy- she LOVED it. Made me develop a new, undiscovered love for my fellow nurses who choose to do LTC for a living. Those ladies were amazing- I will NEVER downplay the importance of nursing home work again in my life. I had been a bedside ER nurse for many years when my mom got diagnosed with advanced cancer- totally changed me to be sitting at the bedside instead of working at the bedside :-) Those "little things" like reassuring phone calls and bed baths mean so much!
    SaoirseRN[/COLOR] 2:27 am by [COLOR=#003366]SaoirseRN[/COLOR] A member since Aug '12 - from 'British Columbia, Canada'. SaoirseRN has '6' year(s) of nursing experience. Posts: 178 Likes: 344

    That's a beautiful story. I'll share one of my own, about a little thing that ended up meaning a lot to one
    The prospect of a shower was too much for her to bear. Even when she was getting up, even with our cushy shower chair and portable oxygen, that much movement, humidity, and stress would've been too much for her to handle. She knew it and so did we.

    She got bed baths, of course. And new sheets. She never said so, but I knew it bothered her that she hadn't been able to have more than that.

    I wasn't often her primary nurse, but this day I was. It was a rare uneventful shift, likely a weekend. I brought piles of linens -- extra flannels, soaker pads -- shampoo and two full basins and pitchers of warm water.
    herring_RN and SarahLeeRN like this.

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  2. 1
    LOVED this post, so well written, too, just loved it. I'll probably read the whole thing again, really enjoyed this one!!
    so nice to read an article that isn't some disgruntled nurse complaining about "kissing a$$ at work"
    or complaining about having to be "like a servant" or complaining about "customer service is a drag"
    etc etc etc.

    I so so agree,
    that doing little things CAN mean so much, both for the patient, and for the nurse herself, too!! I so so agree, that actually caring,
    actually finding a way to connect,
    doing little things that go a bit above and beyond,
    makes our jobs easier, and LESS stressful, not more stressful,
    as evidenced by your joyful feeling after you did this. You went above and beyond, and you felt LESS stress, not more stress.

    when we DO care, it is almost a stress-management thing, imo, for the nurse who is able to care or connect, who can carve out the time (it's often only minutes) to do the little things that really DO make both the patients AND the nurse's day go better.
    SarahLeeRN likes this.
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    Awww. Just yesterday I had an elderly woman being d/cd home to hospice. She was so nervous because she didn't know what to expect. Thought her hubby wouldn't be able to care for her. I showed him how he could easily change her brief and she can participate in most of it right now. So before she left I gave her a good shower, scrubbed her hair and shampooed it. Then I lotioned her up and blow dried her hair. She was so happy. All I could think was maybe this is the last shower she's going to get. Even though it put me behind it made my heart happy to bring her such joy over such a minor thing. She told me she loved me and a gave her a kiss on the cheek. Makes me sad I know I'll never see her again, but I'm glad she gets to die in the comfort of her own home.

    "No day but today"
    kattycakes, uRNmyway, and SarahLeeRN like this.
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    Great article - thank you for sharing
    SarahLeeRN likes this.
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    I was at work the other evening when I went in to medicate and chat one of my favorite residents. She told me she was hungry and asked if she could have a sandwich or something. I happened to have brought in a favorite snack of mine, stuffed grape leaves. Remembering that she had lived in Greece I went in and asked if she would like them. Her eyes lit up and she was so excited! Totally made her night and mine!
    SarahLeeRN likes this.
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    Great thread.

    I am a student nurse and last week I had 2 pts that the little things were the most important things in their day. The first pt wanted to wash her hair, but needed help, I was able to help her with that task and I saw a change in the way she carried herself once she had washed her hair. The second pt I had that day caught a chill later in my shift and her husband asked me to help by getting a warmed blanket. We didn't have any on the floor I was on but I was able to help her into bed and put on another blanket. I also noticed that she had a cold beverage in front of her. I offered to get her a hot cup of tea even though I was late and holding the rest of my clinical group up from leaving the floor. I could have asked someone else to do it for the patient, but I went to the kitchen and made her a cup of hot tea because it was such a little gesture that meant so much to that patient and her husband that day.
    SarahLeeRN likes this.
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    Quote from SarahLeeRN
    She called my name down the hallway. To me, at the other nurses’ station. Why she did that, I don’t know. I had a phone next to me. She’s the unit secretary. Why doesn’t she know my extension?

    “You have a phone call. Johnson’s brother. Wants to speak to his nurse”

    I call back (now we are just raising our voices at each other, how foolish) “Transfer the call over here.”

    She calls back at me. “What’s the number at your phone?”

    Again I wonder- why don’t you know the number? But I don’t ask her aloud. I reply “6015” The phone next to my computer rings and I answer.

    “Third floor, this is SarahLee, how can I help you?”

    I hear a voice, sounding far away and yet right in my ear. “This is George, Elizabeth Johnson’s brother. I was wondering if you could tell me how she is doing?”

    I ask “Are you her health care proxy or power of attorney?”

    “No, just her brother,” the voice seems frail.

    My HIPAA training kicks in. I search my brain and scan through the computer in front of me to see if this person is a contact. I don’t see his name in the computer and the chart is at the other nurses’ station. Then inspiration strikes me.

    “I’m sorry, can you hold on for just a moment?” I ask. I press hold on the phone and walk down the hallway.

    Knocking, I enter. “Elizabeth, your brother George is on the phone, wondering how you are doing. Can I give him some information?”

    Elizabeth looks up and smiles. “Oh yes! I have been trying to call him! Please tell him anything that he wants!”

    I go back to the station and the phone, press hold again and just get a dial tone. I lost him. I must have hung up on him, poor man. Another victim of my sad phone skills. Sighing, I go back down the hallway.

    “Elizabeth, do you have his phone number? I’m sorry but I think I lost him.”

    She searches her brain as she is lying there on her bed: “Oh yes, it’s 478, no 784, no…oh dear, I’m always forgetting it…”

    Suddenly, the overhead page is heard, “SarahLee, phone call front desk. SarahLee, phone call front desk.”

    Thankful, I say “Never mind Elizabeth, that’s probably him”

    I go straight to the unit secretary this time. No more fancy phone maneuvers for me. She tells me how to use her phone, I sit down and I answer it. Quick apology for hanging up on him “I never could run these phones.”

    “It’s ok,” he laughs nervously. Then, without skipping a beat, like he was diving into a pool before he lost his nerve, he asks: “Sarah, is my sister going to die?”

    Stunned at the suddenness of such a request, I search through my brain about the woman I just left in the room. Respirations even, non labored, alert, talking, laughing, getting up as needed on her own, very limited pain. Speaking cautiously, I reply “No…I wouldn’t say that she is going to die. I mean, of course, I can’t see the future. She’s going to need some time to recover, certainly, but no, right now she’s not dying.”

    Suddenly there was a silence on the other end. No talking, just deep breathing heard, in and out, in and out. I thought I had hung up on him again. Finally I say “Um..sir..are.. are you still there?”

    Deep breathing and then, a tearful voice, full of anguish, speaking in a rush now, “I got home and had a message from our other sister, they said she was doing terrible, not well at all, that she was dying…I tried to call her room several times and I couldn’t get through…so I finally thought I should try the nurse…so I’ve been trying to get through at the desk….” Then I heard the sound of him blowing his nose.

    And there it was. That moment that comes every now and again, where I am going along doing a normal day’s work and then suddenly I feel like an observer of my own life. Like I am someone who is looking through a glass at all these different people walking around and suddenly I see two people who have never met before meet at an intersection.

    Without warning, his day’s crisis had smacked headlong into my day’s routine. What was he thinking when I put him on hold to ask my patient’s permission to talk to him and then subsequently hung up on him?

    He had thought his sister was dying.

    Did he think I had to find someone else to break the news to him? Did he think that he would never hear his sister’s voice again? Did he think that the nurse didn’t want to talk to him?

    When I picked up the phone, I thought that he was going to ask some general questions like “How is she doing, when can she go home, can I come and see her?”

    But his question was more serious.

    His question was his biggest fear. He didn’t even know if she was dead, dying or alive.

    Our phone conversation continued and we talked a little more about her health. His tears and fears subsided. I could tell that relief was spreading right through him. I could almost see his smile over that phone line, if such a thing is even possible to say. At the end of our conversation (with the help of the unit secretary) I transferred his call to her room where he and his sister had a good conversation.

    She called me into the room later and gave me a big hug. “Thank you so much,” she said. “He was so afraid” and we laughed together, as two people who knew a private joke.

    But the rest of that shift, I felt what must be one of the best feelings in the world. I felt like smiling, laughing, running down the halls like a fool.

    Because my patient wasn’t dying. She was very much alive.

    I had put one person’s mind at ease. And I got a hug and a thank you from another.
    What more could I ask for? So don’t ever underestimate the value of the little moments in nursing, like a phone call. Small routine moments in our patient care may turn out to be one of the biggest moments in our patients’ and their families’ lives.

    And we get to be part of it. How amazing!

    What little moments have you been a part of?
    We tend to get so caught up with patient's rights...that we forget their right to have loved ones care about them. This was a wonderful story. Thanks for going the distance!
    uRNmyway and SarahLeeRN like this.
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    Quote from SarahLeeRN
    Deep breathing and then, a tearful voice, full of anguish, speaking in a rush now, “I got home and had a message from our other sister, they said she was doing terrible, not well at all, that she was dying…I tried to call her room several times and I couldn’t get through…so I finally thought I should try the nurse…so I’ve been trying to get through at the desk….” Then I heard the sound of him blowing his nose.
    I understand the point of the story, but this makes no sense.... so why did he think she was dying??
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    This is a very heartwarming story. It is easy to forget the impact doing our jobs as nurses can have on our patients and their families.

    When I worked in LTC, I had a resident who was rehabilitating from a fractured bone. One day, her daughter arrived at the same time I did, and asked me in the parking lot to come speak with them. My heart sank because this resident was known to be "difficult", but I had gained her trust. It turned out that she was having doubts about when she would be able to go home.

    By listening to her concerns, and just reminding her that our only goal at the LTC center was to get her strong enough, especially physically and stable enough medically, to go home and care for herself with assistance, I was able to ease her mind and made her day. Her daughter came to me later and thanked me for my time and for saying the things that this resident needed to hear that would be hard for a daughter with a willful mother to say.

    I went home that night knowing that a 15-minute sacrifice out of my very hectic shift made a family's day. It also reminded me how important good listening skills are in nursing.
    SarahLeeRN likes this.
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    Sakura_RN, He thought his sister was dying because his other sister planted the seed that she was. These facts reinforced what his other sister told him: tried to call ill sister, no answer; tried to call nurse, no answer; get through to nurse and get put on hold, then disconnected. Conclusion: sister must be dead or very ill and the nurse must be either trying to figure out how to tell me or find someone else to. Convoluted maybe, but I'd bet we've all been there when we are faced with hearsay and more questions than answers.
    Thimbalina and SarahLeeRN like this.

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