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Emotional Empathy: I Carry You With Me

Nurses Article   (37,980 Views 3 Replies 817 Words)
by Snorkelgirl4 Snorkelgirl4, BSN, RN (New Member) New Member

Snorkelgirl4 is a BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency Room.

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Emotional empathy of nurses is both our greatest strength and weakness. It can be hard to clock out and forget the burdens our patients and their families must carry. It is even harder to forget when you see them up close and personal in unexpected places...outside the hospital walls.

Emotional Empathy: I Carry You With Me

It was a typical day in the emergency room. Ambulances were consistently calling and patients who walked in were lining up to be triaged. I was somewhere between working up a cardiac patient and a gastrointestinal bleed when I saw her...

Tears were freely flowing down her cheeks, and I could tell that whatever was going on was truly painful. As she was being taken to a room that I was assigned to, I braced myself mentally as to not get too emotional upon meeting her.

I took a few deep breaths and entered the room. To my surprise, she was not my patient....her husband was. As I began to assess him, I asked questions. The only response he could muster with his blank face was "for my family". His wife started crying more heavily, so I handed her a small box of tissues from a drawer in the room. After a few moments, she was able to speak clearly. She said "He has been addicted to drugs for years and wants help so that he can be a better husband and father to our child." I was speechless for a few moments, but I regained my professional demeanor and helped comfort her while medically working up her husband.

The process for being transferred to a psychiatric facility for detox out of the ER was always complicated. The psych facility in connection with our hospital had very strict criteria for admission. The process of finding out whether or not a patient could be transferred and admitted sometimes took hours. Tests had to be performed to ensure that the patient had no medical concerns. An evaluator would then go to the ER to interview the patient. Other factors also came into play. I always believed the system was a disservice to our patients, but my hands were tied.

After ensuring my other patients were safe and stable, I entered the room again. The ER case manager was speaking to both the patient and his wife.....and she was crying heavily. She began blurting out words of frustration as our case manager explained that the patient did not meet criteria for admission to the psych facility. The case manager provided the patient's wife with community resources and other information to help the patient....and it was at that moment that I knew the situation had taken a turn for the worse. The patient began slowly shaking his head. He ripped out his IV, and mumbled who knows what under his breath. His wife screamed "It took everything for him to walk in here and give up his pride to get help. He is not going to go somewhere else now because the psych facility you talked to made him feel stupid! It has taken years for me to get him here!".......She followed him out the ER doors without taking any papers. She left looking incredibly defeated, and I felt like we had failed her.

Fast forward to two months later. I was at a county fair at a vendor table for a company I was representing. I looked up at those same brown eyes that were so full of tears in the ER. She was alone, and she did not recognize me (maybe because I had worn glasses that day in the ER). She was incredibly outspoken and friendly. She kept coming back to my table for candy, which I gladly allowed....At the very least this woman deserved the entire bag. As the hours went by, and after enough visits for candy, she began to open up to me. She explained that she had a craft business and traveled to various county fairs throughout the South for extra income. She said that she had been doing so well that she actually made a full time job of it. Unfortunately, she was going to have to find a "real" job for insurance purposes because she was getting a divorce. I felt my heart drop in my chest as I recalled the events of the ER upon hearing that word...divorce. How I wish I could have done more for her.

Although she seemed much stronger in such a short amount of time, I know that the pain was there deep inside. At the end of the day, I hugged her and helped her stuff her remaining crafts into her van. She explained that she was on the way to another big event and needed to make several more wreaths. She was happy with her sales for the day, and I was happy to see her smile. She drove away, and I haven't seen her since....but I carry her with me. I pray she knows that even when it seems that nobody sees her tears, I do. I hear every teardrop loud and clear....and I carry her with me.

I work in an emergency room, and more times than not, patients teach me more than I teach them.

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OrganizedChaos has 10 years experience as a LVN and specializes in M/S, LTC, Corrections, PDN & drug rehab.

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My husband is former addict, I thank God that he was able to stop when we found out I was pregnant with our son. Addiction is a terrible disease, I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Honestly, I didn't know anything about it until I met my husband. When I met my husband it was eye opening, ironically I met him at a drug rehab for teens.

My husband did pretty much every drug, as long as it wasn't IV. He is 30 & his best friend is still drinking & doing cocaine. The best friend has that teenager, invincible attitude. We want him to stop but he (the best friend) thinks because of his healthy lifestyle the cocaine doesn't affect him negatively. As a nurse I know better, I know that one day it will catch up to him.

Also, the best friend's cousin has two kids that she left to family because of meth. A 13 year old & a 2 year old. To me, it is just shocking. I couldn't imagine leaving my son for anything, let alone drugs. The best friend is bad, but the cousin is worse. I keep waiting for the day when my husband tells me she is dead. Because I know the environment she went into & she's not just doing meth, she's probably mixing it with other drugs & alcohol as well.

I wish there was a better system for drug addicts & alcoholics. I feel that the healthcare system doesn't view them the same as people who come in with a heart attack or other "visible" issues.

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NursesRmofun is a ASN, RN and specializes in Registered Nurse.

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I have also been there in the distant past with an Ex. Fortunately for him, he had good insurance that paid for a detox stay and rehab. Most people (without insurance) would be turned out to community programs. However, some of them are pretty good, maybe just not the immediate treatment that a patient may need. I get that.

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