I Love this thread...of course, I am also sitting here with my cheeks that are wet with tears, but I adore these stories, nonetheless.
So..for mine. One of the first times I *knew* I'd made a difference to a patient was during nursing school. I was doing my ICU rotation and felt pretty overwhelmed. My patient was an ARDS pt that was being extubated that day. She was in restraints and was fighting the tube so badly- they'd stopped medicating her as well for sedation. Being the cautious nursing student that I was, I stayed by her bedside the entire shift, watching her vitals and all, but more for the support.
After consulting for about the fifth time with my instructor and the nurse I was orienting with, only to be assured that yes, the pt was fine- she was simply bucking the vent and would be extubated as soon as RT came around, I stood helplessly next to the bed as my pt thrashed about. My patient was an elderly black woman and I noticed she had a Bible next to her bed, no doubt brought in by her kind daughter. I took her hand at that point and said, "Ma'am do you pray?" and she nodded yes, then continued to move about, wild-eyed. I did the only thing I felt moved to do, and I held her hand, closed my eyes, and started to pray out loud for her. It was almost instantly that she began to calm down and when the time came shortly thereafter for her to be extubated, I continued to hold her hand. I'll never forget though that first thing she said, in her raspy, dry voice after they pulled the tube out- She looked straight at me and said "thank you".
I knew exactly what she meant. I drove home happy that day. Stressed but certain that I had done exactly what was needed for that patient.
You guys are right you know- it's about *all* of the patients needs, not just the numbers that we get so adept at interpreting.