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An Unforgettable Lesson

Nurses Article   (12,484 Views 16 Replies 683 Words)
by orthonurse55 orthonurse55 (Member) Member

orthonurse55 has 30+ years experience and specializes in Orthopaedic Nursing; Geriatrics.

2 Articles; 7,295 Profile Views; 173 Posts

My patient taught me a valuable lesson one night, one I will never forget.

An Unforgettable Lesson

Many of us learn valuable lessons from our patients. I was fortunate to learn one very early in my career that has stayed with me for 35 years. I have long ago forgotten her name, but her face and her circumstances are embedded in my brain and have dictated the way I have treated many other patients. I am now a teacher, and I use this as a lesson to my students every year - it is that important.

I was working the 3-11pm shift at a small community hospital. We received a transfer to our Med-Surg floor from the Intensive Care Unit. It was a 42 year old woman who had had a heart attack. In those days, she was expected to stay on our unit for about two weeks before being sent home. She was so sweet, and I was amazed that someone so young could have had such a bad heart attack! I was half her age but she was still young in my eyes! And she was upset that she could not even see her two young children. Oh heavens no, we could not allow children in a hospital in those days! We even had restricted visiting hour for adults. She asked me to set some pictures of her son and daughter on her nightstand as I was admitting her to our unit.

Every evening during her bedtime routine, we would talk about our kids. I had one daughter and could not imagine not seeing her every day. But my patient was getting stronger and was able to walk around our unit every now and then as ordered by her doctor. We both knew it wouldn't be long before she would be home with her little ones again.

After about a week on our unit, I was making my evening rounds, getting everyone settled in, and she asked me to sit with her for a while. I sat down and held her hand and she told me she was scared. She didn't know why, she just felt scared and thought she might not see her kids again. I tried to assure her that her progress so far had been fantastic and she was right on track. But she held on tight to my hand and kept talking about her little ones.

I realized it was 10:30, almost time for end of shift. I told her I had to finish up some charting and give my report and that I would come back to her room when I clocked out. She thanked me and I went about my business. Where does the time go? Before I knew it, it was time to go home and I left with all of my friends. It wasn't until I had gotten home that I realized I had forgotten to make good on my promise. That's OK, I thought, I will apologize tomorrow and spend extra time with her at that time.

The next afternoon I was listening to report and her name wasn't mentioned. I asked where she was - had she gone home early? To my shock, I was told that she had died at midnight the evening before. She was scared and wanted company and I let her down. She didn't know why and neither did I, but she was about to die and I wasn't there. I also learned later that sometimes people feel that "scared for no real reason" feeling just before they are going to die. I struggled for a long time. If I had stayed and been in her room, could I have called a code and would she be home with her kids right now? I would never know.

What I DO know is this: I have never ignored a patient request since that night. Who knows what is going on in their minds? Scared, pain, terror, loneliness? It doesn't matter to me. If they need me, I am there. She made me a better nurse and she doesn't even know it.

Registered Nurse. Specialty: 30+ year(s) of experience in Orthopaedic Nursing; Geriatrics

2 Articles; 7,295 Profile Views; 173 Posts

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nursetries2hard specializes in Long-Term (elderly).

2 Posts; 723 Profile Views

that was beautiful

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jennybean14 has 22 years experience and specializes in Diabetes/Med/Surg/Stroke/Onc/Hematology.

19 Posts; 3,064 Profile Views

She does know. i had a similar situation with a young man in his thirties. He was on our Med/Surg unit and had severe pancreatitis, history of heavy drinking. He was engaged to be married and also was from Croatia or somewhere around there. Very nice man. I was working my 7a - 7p shift and he called me into his room in a panic. He wasn't sure why, but was very anxious. I sat with him, but soon enough his breathing became distressed. His pO2 was low and other vs not so hot. I had the resident up to see him and we ended up coding him. Right before he went out he begged me not to let him die. He looked right into my eyes and grasped my hand. I told him we wouldn't let him die. He was intubated and sent to ICU. The next day I asked his attending how he was doing and he told me he died. I had to leave the nurses station. I felt horrible and at fault for some reason. His attending said his liver was so far gone from drinking there was no way he could have made it. I remembered his name for the longest time, but now I forget. I'll never forget his face and what he said though. I will never forget him.

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orthonurse55 has 30+ years experience and specializes in Orthopaedic Nursing; Geriatrics.

2 Articles; 173 Posts; 7,295 Profile Views

I think these patients are sent into our lives for a purpose and they are the ones who make us better than we were before we met them! Thanks for sharing your experience

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645 Posts; 8,740 Profile Views

Wow...I had a patient tell me not to bother giving her her meds because she is going away. She died that night.

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FranEMTnurse has 22 years experience as a CNA, LPN, EMT-I and specializes in LTC, CPR instructor, First aid instructor..

2 Articles; 3,619 Posts; 56,131 Profile Views

I think these patients are sent into our lives for a purpose and they are the ones who make us better than we were before we met them! Thanks for sharing your experience
I agree with you completely. I had the wonderful experience of taking care of my grandmother the last ten days of her life. She died in my arms. I cherish that memory.

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I have been a nurse for 9yrs and I have been known to diagnosis PE (pulmonary embolisms) with out a d-dimmer, or a CTA. I had a pt once who also was all of a sudden scaired and not just your tipical "Scared". It was more like panic attack . Well he was just fine for the last 4 days i was taking carre of him, he was 21 y/o and was addmitted for a ankle fx, s/p external fixator. Well getting back to the story he was fine the days I took care of him just as long as he had his percocet q4hrs for the pain and yes I think his type of fx is probably the most painful from my experience. I was a new nurse and I was also scared of the was he was acting and I call the MD, told my nurse in charge and so fourth. By the time the ortho md consulted medicine it was too late my pt coded and died. i will always remember THAT LOOK on his face. So from then on if anyone all of a sudden changed from calm and collective and started to panic I would do everything STAT or from my jugdement call a code.

I could tell 80 Percent of the time if the pt had a PE just by taking off his o2 and if the o2 dropps quickly (for example 100percent wth o2 and 30 sec later 85 percent also you can see the HR go from 90 one min to 125-150the next min. Pts with PE can be fine and also be on the floor but iff they are anxious just use your best judgement. if your not sure make sure you report you findings to your charge nurse and always document who you spoke to and so fourth to cover yourself. All pts in the hospital who dont move well should be on antiq, and like my 21y/old age doesnt matter. PE's are the number one cause of death of pts in the hospital and could be prevented most of the time.

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fantwi has 9 years experience.

5 Posts; 671 Profile Views

Hi,

I am seriously going to make this advice stay with me also. Thank you

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26 Posts; 1,340 Profile Views

It is moments like this that shape us, and make us better human beings. also helps us to gauge our own mortality. and appriciate our loved ones. thank you.

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197 Posts; 4,198 Profile Views

wow! That is crazy!

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16 Posts; 1,536 Profile Views

Chills and a lump in my throat after reading your story. Thank you for sharing. You may never know how your story will live on in the back of many minds, but it will stay with me. Whether it be that one patient that just needs someone to be there or even a friend that is reaching out. Sometimes we can be that bit of peace they need, even though we don't know it.

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orthonurse55 has 30+ years experience and specializes in Orthopaedic Nursing; Geriatrics.

2 Articles; 173 Posts; 7,295 Profile Views

Hi,

I am seriously going to make this advice stay with me also. Thank you

You're welcome. I'm glad you learned from my mistake!

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