I Want to be a Nurse, I Want to Make a Difference

My inspirational patient

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During my clinical rotation in the nursing home, I was assigned a gentleman in his 70's (we'll call Mr. Smith), as my patient. Mr. Smith had severe Alzheimer's disease, which had progressed very quickly. He had gone from sailing solo from the coast of Maine to the coast of Florida, to not being able to remember his name or that he could no longer walk, in just a few short years. This was even more depressing when I learned that he was a retired geologist, who had implemented clean drinking water systems in third world countries.

Today, he just sits in his chair, day in and day out. He can no longer care for himself, and due to what the Alzheimer's has done to his mind, neither can his wife. She visits every couple of days, but he doesn't recognize her. In his room, are a few pictures of he and his wife and of his sailboat. Although these pictures were only taken a few years ago, his looks have totally changed. Mr. Smith has a history of being combative and gets nervous when around a lot of people. Mr. Smith doesn't get a lot of attention from the staff for these reasons. I made up my mind that I was going to spend as much time interacting with Mr. Smith as I could and hopefully make a difference to him.

This was going to be difficult because Mr. Smith has trouble communicating, he is hard to understand because he mumbles and stutters. Even when you can understand him, he answers inappropriately or get tripped up on his words, get frustrated and shut down. Four days of reading his magazines to him, pointing out pictures and making small talk, had left me feeling pretty useless. He almost seemed to look right through me and I never felt like I was making a connection.

On our fifth day together, the day went like all the rest. I took him outside to sit in the courtyard, smell the fresh air and flowers and listen to the birds chirping. I helped him eat his lunch and complete his ADLs. We sat in his room, looking at his magazines and talking, of course talking meant that I was doing all the talking and he was just looking off into the distance.

When it was almost time for us to leave for the day, my instructor came into the room and spoke to us for a moment, kneeling down in front of Mr. Smith. When he left the room, Mr. Smith surprised me by saying, "He's a nice man, isn't he?" He said it so clearly and with so much meaning, it caught me off gaurd. I told him that I thought he was a nice man too. Then Mr. Smith did something I never expected and will never forget. He turned and looked me in the eyes, touched my chin and said, "And you're just the sweetest thing."

That was such a heartwarming and sentimental moment, I had to choke back a tear. I'll never forget Mr. Smith and our time together. He confirmed my desire to be a nurse so that I can help someone. To help that someone, who so many have given up on.

I really got through to him, I really made a difference.

I am a new nurse! Graduated NS in May 2011; experience in Med/Surg

1 Article   64 Posts

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timetoshine

2 Articles; 74 Posts

Specializes in Acute Care Hosp, Nursing Home, Clinics. Has 54 years experience.

tracyd77 God Bless you. Keep that memory for every time you find yourself frustrated and wanting to through in the towel. You did make a difference and you will again many times over.

nurse.sandi

250 Posts

I have been saying this for years..."If I only help one person". There are a lot of people in this world, so one person is a good start. I did figure out soon after becoming a nurse that "I could not save the world, but just that one person".

Specializes in Med nurse in med-surg., float, HH, and PDN. Has 43 years experience.

Had a patient once with a rare genetic disease , some mutation that affected the brain and had so degenerated her condition that all she seemed to be was a twisted little body in the bed with a trach, g-tube and the inability to talk or even change her facial expression or look you in the eyes. Most people thought she just wasn't THERE. She'd sort of stare at the ceiling in an unfocused way. I used to put the radio on a country station, because she had a stack if country music cassettes stuck in a book-case; while she didn't smile or really change in a profound way, when certain songs came on she seemed somehow transported. "They" said I was just imagining it. Another thing I used to do was read her funny bits and pieces from the paper. She sometimes seemed to be listening, sometimes she just went to sleep. Well, I had brought with me one day a library book, a biographical history of Annie Oakley and Wild Bill Hickock. I began reading it aloud, and it seemed to me that she became absolutely still and stayed awake longer than usual when I was reading from that book. It took about a week and a half to get through the whole book and one other nurse observed it and said "Look at her! She really seems to be paying attention!" Another thing she absolutely NO doubt enjoyed was having her hair shampooed. It was so satisfying to see that she really loved the feeling of having her head massaged; I would often fill 6 or 8 gallon jugs with warm water and just slowly pour them over her scalp. I will never know how much of the reading got through to her, if she could even understand anything, maybe it was just the sound of my voice, but I really felt there was some connection on some comfortable level, somewhere there between us. And when I'd say "M_____, we're going to wash you hair...." She would wiggle and spasm while I was setting things up, but as soon as I'd say "Are you ready?" , she would become absolutely still and when that water began pouring over her hair and scalp, she would sigh deeply and make a sound that I could only translate into pure bliss. The longer I took care of her the more I felt that on some level she "knew" it was me, either by touch or my voice. One day I put my face in front of hers until I was in her line of vision, and just for a brief moment there was eye contact...her pupils reacted, and I thought, "She's looking at me!" I cannot tell you the THRILL of feeling that look shot through me. I said "HI,M_____!!!" and she gave an open mouth smile and a vocal "UUUHH". It made my eyes get tear-filled, it was just an amzing moment I will never forget!

Specializes in Geriatrics.

To make a difference on anyone's life makes what we do so satisfying! Thank you for these up-lifing stories, please keep sending them in!

tracyd77, RN

1 Article; 64 Posts

Specializes in med/surg.

No Stars In My Eyes, that is an amazing story! Brought tears to my eyes. Those are the moments (even if I only have one every few years or even once in my career) that make it all worth it! God bless you!

missanxious

21 Posts

@gentlegiver "To make a difference on anyone's life makes what we do so satisfying! Thank you for these up-lifing stories, please keep sending them in!"

-took the words right out of my mouth.

BunnySan27

65 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg Tele; LTC; Corrections.

Loved your story!! Thank you for sharing your story, You just proved perfectly the point I made in another discussion, on AN. It's the nice things people don't have time for anymore, that got you a response that probably he won't do again for a while if ever again, especially those who choose to isolate him because he was difficult. Good for you!! I hope you take that spirit with you in your career. So many sick patients need nurses like you and I to take the time out, and go above and beyond our duties.

God Bless You!