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? ... Read More
Jan 29, '13Quote from SarahLeeRNWe 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!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?
Jan 30, '13Quote from SarahLeeRNI understand the point of the story, but this makes no sense.... so why did he think she was dying??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.
Jan 30, '13This 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.
Jan 30, '13Sakura_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.
Jan 30, '13bookworm78910-thank you for the reply to Sakura_RN. That is what was happening and why he thought she was dying.
Aug 17, '14Rules are meant to be broken and sometimes we have to have the courage to treat others as human beings. What if you where on the other side of that phone call? You have to use your judgement. On that case transferring the call directly to the patient would have been sufficient. No laws would have been broken. We need to be human again and stop being so guarded about those we care for
Aug 18, '14Every day with every interaction I have to remind myself of this... that the little things are the most important things. Even though I am busy and have one million things on my mind, I have to stop and be present with the person in front of me, for it is my "kuleana" (this word is hawaiian, and I can't think of the English version)
There was a frequent flyer, chronic pain patient who was often a pain in the A** on my floor that almost everyone had disregarded for his "cry wolf" sydrome. But I had somehow gained his trust . There was one very busy night and this patient had once again lashed out at my CNA. I walked in with his pain medication 10 minutes late. He was obviously upset and in pain. He Said " why are you late?" I explained that I was very busy and had a lot of patients to take care of. But instead of walking out after the interaction and getting back to my tasks I sat down with him. I told him "you are not my only patient, but you are important, just as important as all of my other patients. And no matter how busy I am I will always have time for you."
He said that was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him. We sat for a few moments, I held his hand. It was a very touching moment. Even the people who are the hardest to deal with deserve our time and our caring hearts.
Jun 6, '15I had a clt who had a Ca facial tumour that was inoperable. The smell was...far from pleasant and it was progressing rapidly. It encompassed his eye, which was soon to fall off. He was dc'd from hospital to home care for palliative comfort methods with daily drsgs mostly to minimize the odor. The first nurse he had couldn't "stomach" the smell and asked not to be sent to him. The second sprayed herself in a cloud of perfume in a not-at-all subtle way to tolerate the smell. By the time I saw him he was withdrawn, depressed and somewhat rude to me. Each day I changed the dressing his one good eye would be staring anywhere but at me. I would assess him and try to talk to him. I finally asked him if we would prefer i don't talk? For the first time he looked directly at me....and started to cry...I had no idea why?! He finally told me that he was crying because he just realized I was the first nurse that was looking AT him, directly at him, and not "talking to his tumour" . He felt like a person, not the guy with the "stinky tumor". I cared for him right until he passed. I'll never forget that.