Patriots' Act! How Could I Turn Down Her Request Now?

It was a night like most others on our oncology/med surg unit. It didn't appear to be as busy as most other nights. A minimal amount of call lights were being utilized. The nursing assistants (yes, we had nursing assistants back then!) were not asking for much help and overall the floor just seemed a little quieter than usual for the 3-11pm shift. I should have known then that the serenity was not a good sign! Nurses General Nursing Article

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  • Specializes in Hospice. Also home health and oncology..
Patriots' Act! How Could I Turn Down Her Request Now?

Most of the patients on our floor were oncology patients either there to receive inpatient chemotherapy or continuing their ongoing battle with the dreaded disease. The other major portion of our census was our general post-op patients...the appys, the cholys and the like. And then there was the third portion of our census: the general nursing home patients who were admitted for any variety of reasons, but essentially because they were just too 'sick' to be in the nursing know the ones with too many wounds, too many tubes, almost always with diabetes and surgeons just itching to find something to amputate or an organ to remove for the heck of it.

There were two surgeons who frequented our unit with these type of patients. Everyone knew that when either of those surgeons had a patient on our floor it was never good. Their reputations were not ones that necessarily endeared them to any of the nurses because of their opportunistic attitudes.

As a matter of fact, it was often stated (and unfortunately true) that the longer one of these surgeons had a patient, the shorter that patient got. These two surgeons would repeatedly admit these older bedbound patients for surgical amputations beginning with the toes and working their way up until most of their patients eventually received an above the knee amputation, and for those even more unlucky, bilateral AKAs.

When I found out I was assigned to the fourth nursing pod on this evening, I cringed. Mostly because of Mrs. C in room 435. God bless her, she was the typical nursing home patient with all of the diagnoses listed above and then some, including Alzheimer's.

The problem with Mrs. C was not so much her care as it was that she couldn't remember. Anything. Ever. No matter who was assigned to that pod, those clinicians had to have, and I mean it was essential, that they have the patience of Job.

Mrs. C constantly, and I mean constantly, in every breath, for every second of every minute of every shift was calling for help. As a nursing staff, we were constantly in her room just to ensure that she really didn't need whatever it was she was calling for at that particular moment.

Weeks passed and Mrs. C was still in room 435, still calling out to us all. It became so bad, that we would offer each other incentives (candy, money, PTO time) to go in and check on Mrs. C. Eventually it got to the point that none of us would take each other's bribes, not very often anyway!

While I was the lucky one assigned to the pod on this particular evening, several of my coworkers happened to be visiting that pod during that evening. As usual, Mrs. C. was calling out. We were trying to discuss something (I can't remember what, but I'm sure it was extremely important!).

The nursing assistant finally went over and pulled the door to the room closed, but left it open just enough that we could see Mrs. C to ensure her safety. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough money with me that night to bribe any of my coworkers to enter Mrs. C's room.

Because Mrs. C just always called out "Nurse! Nurse!" we felt like her request was generic enough that she could have been talking to any one of us. Which meant that we could push her repeated requests off on each other.

Except for one small problem on this otherwise beautiful night on our otherwise chaotic unit. When none of us responded to Mrs. C's repeated cries for help she changed her call.

Instead of yelling "Nurse! Nurse!" she began yelling, "Miss Red, White, and Blue! Miss Red, White, and Blue!"

All of my coworkers began laughing hysterically. Being a virtually new nurse and wanting to fit in, I began laughing with them thinking they were taking advantage of Mrs. C and enjoying a laugh at her expense.

It was then that I realized that they were actually laughing at me. Suddenly I realized, adorned with my white uniform that evening, I was wearing my navy cardigan sweater and had my red stethoscope wrapped around my neck...for the first time, Mrs. C was able to single one of us out, and it happened to be me.

How could I turn down her request now??

I couldn't...but as soon as I gave her some reassurance, made sure she was clean and comfortable and that everything was OK, I left her room and promptly removed my sweater, my stethoscope, and all other articles that might assist her in singling me out again. However, in that brief moment, the damage was done:

Mrs. C had successfully identified with me and instilled in me an overwhelming sense of guilt after if I didn't run to her bedside whenever she beckoned.

I never in a million years would have thought I'd miss Mrs. C and her incessant need for attention, but the fact that she was the first thing that popped into my mind when I was trying to remember my most humorous nursing moments, made me realize what an impact she has had made on me as a nurse.

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Specializes in Med/surg, L & D, Theatre, A & E.

nice one red, blue and white!

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