How can you help me?...Let me name the ways...

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by debraglick debraglick (New)

Following a serious accident, I was a patient on a trauma unit for over two months. During this time, I had many medical needs. However, my emotional needs were just as--if not more--pressing. Fortunately, among the many nurses on the unit, a few nurses went above and beyond to provide me with the emotional support I needed in the face of anxiety, boredom, loneliness, and lack of independence. This article highlights a few of my needs and the ways in which these nurses helped me endure those long and painful months.

How can you help me?...Let me name the ways...

In October 2016, I was hit by car while crossing the street. A medical helicopter transported me to the hospital where I spent three nights in the ICU, followed by two months on the critical care trauma unit. I had sustained numerous and severe internal and external injuries which required major medical intervention. During my (too long) stay, many nurses cared for me. A year and a half later, I still marvel at the dedication of several of them. Fortunately, much of my hospital stay is a blur. However, I can still vividly recall how much their commitment to my emotional well-being in addition to my medical needs helped during those physically and emotionally painful--and seemingly endless--months.

Fortunately, many nurses understood that I was more than just a vessel with medical problems; I was a person with complex emotions. Sustaining, coping with, and healing from my injuries while spending months in the hospital took an enormous emotional toll on me. I experienced anxiety, boredom, loneliness, helplessness, and dependence. Throughout this traumatic experience, some of my nurses had the insight and empathy to treat me as a human. Their concern for, and attention to, not only my physical needs but also my emotional needs meant the world to me.

The nurses were very busy. They had multiple patients with many needs, some of which required immediate attention. Therefore, it is understandable that they were not always able to spend extra time to support my emotional needs. But when they had--and took--the extra time to really be with and help me as a whole person, it had a far greater impact on my well-being and healing than did any pill or injection.

How can nurses contribute to emotional healing?

Reduce loneliness and boredom

My hips, femurs, and one tibia/fibula were broken. As a result, I was unable to bear weight (i.e., stand) for two months. Fortunately, the hospital unit had ceiling lifts (aka "full body slings") so that I was not completely bedridden. Even though it (literally) took as much time to get me out of my room and into the lobby of the unit (where the nurses sit and other patients walk around) as I then actually spent there, some nurses were willing to load me into the lift and then wheel me out into the hall multiple times each day. Staying in my room all day was incredibly lonely and boring. Their willingness to spend this time enabled me to leave my room, sit up, see and talk to people, have a change of scenery, see that there was life outside of my hospital room, and have a much-needed distraction from my emotional and physical pain.

Provide reassurance against anxiety

After two months, my orthopedic surgeon wanted an x-ray of my legs and hips. The needed images required me to stand up for the first in two months. I was terrified that I had "forgotten" how that I would fall and re-injure myself, and that my hospital stay and recovery would be prolonged. Knowing how scared I was, one of my most dedicated nurses decided to accompany me to the x-rays. When I saw her turn in her pager so that she could devote all of her attention to me, I knew that I would be okay. She informed the radiology technicians that I was terrified and constantly reassured me that she would not let me fall. Now, after almost complete recovery, it is hard to imagine that I was so afraid of standing up. However, I remember that day very clearly. It was extremely difficult for me to put any weight on a leg that had been shattered and pinned back together and a heel that would not touch the ground. Knowing that my nurse would not let me fall physically or fall apart emotionally provided me with the comfort I needed to view standing up as an exciting (albeit terrifying) accomplishment. Her support was priceless.

Diffuse my pain

During another extremely uncomfortable surgical procedure that required me to be awake, another devoted nurse stayed and held my hand the entire time. She constantly reminded me that I would make it, that I was being brave, that I was almost done, and (showing how well she knew me) that, once over it was time for ice cream!. She encouraged me to keep squeezing her hand to help diffuse some of the pain that I was experiencing and talked to me in order to distract me. That procedure stands out as one of the worst parts of my hospital stay (and that is saying a lot, given how many there were), but I also remember how much more bearable it was with the support of my nurse.

Just be with me

One night I woke up feeling a burning from one of the medications running down my throat (where it was not supposed to be going). After my nurse fixed the tube, I was so terrified to return to sleep, fearing that I would not live through the night. Despite my nurse's reassurance that she would not let anything happen to me, I was too scared to try to sleep. She said that she would stay with me until I fell asleep. She pulled up a chair and sat in the dark so that I would know she was watching in case I started choking again or could not breathe. I remember opening my eyes a few times and seeing that she was still there with me. Her presence was exactly what I needed.

Help me retain some independence

Once I was able to get out of bed and bear weight, my nurse (who had been encouraging me to take every little step possible towards independence and caring for myself) spend extra time to help me use the commode and then the actual toilet. She also helped me take my first shower in over two months. It took about an hour, and, because we had to leave the shower curtain open, it created a mini-flood. It would have been easier and faster to have me use the bedpan and be sponged off and leave the "real stuff" for a rehabilitation facility to deal with. However, she was willing to put in the extra time and energy to help me move towards feeling more like a "person" rather than a bedridden patient.

I hope that the nurses know how much they helped me emotionally. I was in so much pain at the time that I was unable to adequately express how grateful I was for the care they provided. The pain of my accident, injuries, and hospital stay has (fortunately) reduced over time. In contrast, my appreciation for the emotional support these nurses provided has grown. They truly helped me in many ways.

debraglick

Debra Glick has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and works as a therapist in Boston. As she continues to recover, she is able to engage in more of her favorite activities, including spending time outside, walking on the beach, and talking and joking with friends and family about anything and everything.

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11 Comment(s)

JKL33

6,326 Posts

Thank you very much for this. I can't really say more because this has made me practically-teary eyed and I just have no other words.

Wishing you continued healing ~

Ponymom2

Ponymom2

Has 1 years experience. 41 Posts

You had a great team. And this is what real nursing includes, but honestly, it seemed almost fictional to me to read this...Not that your story is fictional, but that the facility you were in was obviously staffed appropriately for you to be treated the way you were. If I could have devoted my time to appropriately care for my patients in this manner, I would have never left nursing.....never.

Wishing you continued healing and thank you for this.

LovingLife123

LovingLife123

1,571 Posts

Thank you. I hope I have this affect on my patients.

ponymom

ponymom

385 Posts

You had a great team. And this is what real nursing includes, but honestly, it seemed almost fictional to me to read this...Not that your story is fictional, but that the facility you were in was obviously staffed appropriately for you to be treated the way you were. If I could have devoted my time to appropriately care for my patients in this manner, I would have never left nursing.....never.

Wishing you continued healing and thank you for this.

I am Ponymom (original) but on this tablet I had to redo everything. Just so all y'all know. I'm going to try and figure out how to fix this...not the greatest at this sort of thing...You may see me as Ponymom at times, signing in from different pc/tablet till I get it all figured out...

Have Nurse

Have Nurse, ADN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg/Infection Control/Geriatrics. Has 32 years experience. 15 Articles; 719 Posts

Your experience touched me. God bless you and your team that made that journey with you!

juliezehrn

juliezehrn

Specializes in Med-Surg, Primary/Urgent Care. Has 10 years experience. 11 Posts

Thank you for sharing this! Thank you so much.

debraglick

debraglick

1 Article; 3 Posts

I appreciate these comments. Here is a question: I am thinking about delivering a copy to each of the nurses whose help and support I mention here. Thoughts?

glb1960

glb1960

Specializes in Peds leukemia, APON, GI in a clinic. 62 Posts

Please do so. Quite frequently we are appreciated in the moment but rarely in a long term, out-look changing way. I worked on a Peds BMT floor where we worked with the children and their families for months and months. I can assure you that the most tear filled moments were when the children and their families came back to tell how great they were doing.

chare

3,577 Posts

I appreciate these comments. Here is a question: I am thinking about delivering a copy to each of the nurses whose help and support I mention here. Thoughts?

Yes, please deliver a copy to the nurses mentioned. I'm sure that they will appreciate it, knowing the impact they had on your recovery; I know I would. In addition to delivering copies to those individuals, you might consider delivering a copy to the facility's chief nursing officer as well.

Thank you for sharing this with us, and best wishes for your continues recovery.

broughden

560 Posts

I wish my hospitalization, following surgery, had been as nice as yours. Instead my own was characterized by callous disregard and utter lack of professionalism from my nursing team.

debraglick

debraglick

1 Article; 3 Posts

I was actually planning to send the nursing head a copy so I'm glad you mentioned it would be a good idea. My only concern was that they would get "in trouble" for spending so much time with me!!