Ghosts Are All Around Us

As a nurse, I have seen the influence of ghosts: those of the past--the shadowy glimpses of those who once lived. The ghosts of the present, who haunt us daily. Those of the future, who we would like to change, but wonder if we can. There are moments in nursing that make us realize that as nurses, we take care of the body, the mind, and the spirit--and even the ghosts that are all around us. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


Ghosts Are All Around Us

Ah, the questions that our children ask: "Where did I come from?" "How does Santa Claus fly around the world in ONE NIGHT?" or... "Do you believe in ghosts, mommy?"

Some questions are easier to answer than others.

I have never seen a ghost--that ethereal mist that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. The kind that makes the room suddenly turn bone-chilling cold. But that doesn't make me doubt their existence. As a nurse, I have seen their influence: the ghosts of the past--those shadowy glimpses of those who once lived, who never leave us. The ghosts of the present, who haunt us daily. Those of the future, who we would like to change, but wonder if we can.

It was a beautiful summer day, when the sky was so blue that it seemed endless. This outside beauty seemed an unfair contrast to the dark, gloomy room, as I held the hand of my dying patient. "Martha, is that you?" he said as he looked at me. "No, I am not Martha, I am the nursing assistant," I replied. I knew that he had lost his wife a few years ago.

"Martha, please stay, "he cried. "I am here," I said. "I am not leaving." He died peacefully, with his wife's name on his lips. On this day, I was the ghost.

I had another patient, a new mother who seemed overly concerned about everything that her newborn was doing or not doing. "I think his lips are blue!" she would say. Or... "can you please check his temperature again? He seems too hot." Or... "he just isn't breathing right." It was kind of driving me crazy on a day that was already busy. Near the end of the shift, I finally had some time to go through the rest of her chart. And there it was: She had lost her first baby to SIDS, when he was only two months old. On this day, her first baby was the ghost.

When I was a nursing student, I had to do my obligatory four-day rotation in mental health. I had mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I was thinking, this could be a nightmare, and on the other hand--it might just be interesting. It was actually a little of both. I was given a lot of autonomy at the facility, given that I was a nursing student. The nurse in charge basically said: here is a list of "safe" patients--you can give them their meds this morning. Um, OK. As I made my way around the unit, I wasn't sure what I expected, but I encountered patients who seemed very ordinary to me. Until I went into the fifth room. I heard voices from behind the closed door. I thought it was a private room. When I knocked and entered, there was a man sitting on his bed having a conversation. He questioned....and he answered. "Who are you talking to?" I asked. "The Prophet Elijah," he answered. What am I supposed to say now? I dove right in. "Can you tell me your name?" "God," he answered. Oh. I double checked his wristband, and gave him his meds, while he continued his conversation. On this day...the ghosts were within his mind.

It was a cold, rainy day in December. I walked into my patient's room, not knowing what to expect. The report on paper didn't look so good. Teenage mother, history of depression, history of abuse. The scene was surprising. A lovely, young mother sat in her bed breastfeeding her baby. "Look, she has latched on this time without help!" she exclaimed with pride in her voice. "Good job!" I replied, sharing her enthusiasm. Then I noticed another woman in the corner of the room. She sat in the rocking chair with a sullen look on her face. She looked unkempt and smelled of cigarette smoke. Her hands were shaking. "I need to get some fresh air," she said and exited the room quickly. My patient looked embarrassed for her mother. The mother didn't return that day. We had an order not to let the stepfather into the unit due to his history of abusing our patient. I got to know my patient throughout the shift. She was tearful at times. "I am so scared that I will end up like her...she has made such bad decisions...bring that %^hole into our house." I realized that the ghost of her future self was haunting her. "You aren't your mother, and the decisions you make will be your own," I said.

So many times in my nursing career, I have felt more of a counselor than a nurse. But I have come to realize that nursing is all of that--you can't separate taking care of the physical body from that of the mind and spirit.

We have to take care of the patients and their ghosts--they are all around us.

I have been a nurse working in pediatrics, special care nursery and post-partum. Before my nursing career, I was the editor of a medical magazine in nephrology.

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7,736 Posts

Specializes in retired LTC.

I've enjoyed reading many of the 'article'-type posts here. I esp enjoyed yours - something very deep in it. And it touches ...

Continue, please.


1 Post

Wonderful article according for my perception no found for ghosts but this behaviour only try from patient for separation actuality and imagine life *to reach for full perceive found another people or organism on their life *

TriciaJ, RN

4,328 Posts

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

Loved this article. There is definitely an art to taking care of the whole person.

Very nice piece. In the case of Martha... I'm pretty sure she was there.

Specializes in Med nurse in med-surg., float, HH, and PDN.


What a talented writer you are! Your piece had such a nice quiet feel and flow to it, each paragraph a beautiful bead, the piece as a whole a treasured bracelet. You are an artist! Thank you.


48 Posts

I am also a postartum nurse, your story runs true through my daily life with my patients.

Thank you for articulating both of our worlds


178 Posts

Specializes in pediatric.

A lovely read... I kept looking forward to the next "ghost story." :)


1 Post

Great article! I was able to imagine every detail.. I enjoyed it. :)

Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma.

Awesome article. That. Is. All. :yes:


70 Posts

I have been in nursing for over 30 years and have had several "encounters" with ghosts. One night (ICU) while 3-11 shift was giving us report, their patient had died 1 hour earlier and they were waiting for 1 more family member to leave before we could do post mortum care. No one knew that the family member had already left when the door to the room opened and a cold breeze came from the room. 3-11 shift left and the 3 of us went into the room and found the blinds blowing...the window was closed and locked....and the room was freezing. I guess she was telling us good bye.

Love ly article. I am also a postpartum nurse and we do take care of the whole family at times.

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