I've also thought about this alot. Not in the vocabulary or at the depths of hbncns35, I guess. I'm really just an ol' Southern fella who fell into this Nursing business almost by accident. (There was this big recession and all the nurses I knew were working.)
But I happen to have the gift of empathy. And it has always seemed---well, almost poetic to see this struggling human being surrounded by the lines and wires and screens and alarms and automatic appliances that constitute a modern ICU. It seems to me that the gift of the good nurse is the ability to walk into the room and make eye contact with this sick, stuggling, often-lost and confused human being and to say, "I'm your nurse; I'm going to take care of YOU!"
I happen to love the nuances and intricacies of wave forms and lab values and the numbers that the ventilators give us. But I love them because they give me a way of seeing INTO THE BODY OF MY PATIENT. Are there bursts of V-Tach? I bet my Pt experiences palpitations, that he's scared by them and wonders if I can notice whatever is fluttering or throbbing in his chest. My task is not only to deal with the rhythm and monitor--it is also to deal with his fear and confusion. So when I add a Magnesium level to the AM lab work and send it down early, I relate what I do to my Pt's experience and fears and needs for confidence in me.
When the Swan numbers show the Wedge is going up (24--now 26!) and the Vent shows the Peak Inspiratory Pressure is going up too (30--now 34), I know there is a human being in there with the sensation of wet phlegm in his lungs and who knows that his airways are constricting and reacting to the irritation of Pulmonary Edema. A person I'm responsible for is experiencing a sense of 'smothering' and I bet that's a terrifying feeling. Part of what a good nurse does (other than giving lasix, adjusting oxygen, titrating dobutamine and tridil) is to reassure, comfort and give hope.
Without the knowledge that someone who has my commitment of caring is within all those numbers, there would only be an interesting but meaningless exercise kind of like a video game.
There are many around us who understand all the machinery and numbers better than we do. Pharmacists and Pulmonologists and Cardiologists and Surgeons all understand the "problem" presented by the Patient.
It is the particular gift given to us to understand that there is a Grandmother, or a Child, or the stuggling young Father of a new family who finds themselves facing frightening and confusing events that they have no control over and do not understand. We have to voluntarily say--"I am here to stand beside you, and I understand what's going on here. I have control of this situation. And YOU CAN TRUST ME."
It's a precious gift, when someone gives you their trust. And we receive it as a routine part of our 'normal' working life.
What a special job!!!!