That Bar is Pretty High!: When You're the Daughter Trying Not to Be the Nurse

As I sit in the hospital room on the other side of the bed, I am again reminded of what it is like to be the one in need of answers, in need of a calm and competent staff, and in need of someone I can trust. I sit beside my mom as she worries about the love of her life lying in the bed, holding his hand and talking a hundred miles a minute because, well, that is how she is under stress. And then, the angel walks in…..


That Bar is Pretty High!: When You're the Daughter Trying Not to Be the Nurse

I missed the phone calls, yet again. I don't know how many times I have given my brothers and mom my new cell phone number, but no one seems to write it down or remember it. So, at the end of a long day of nursing, I head home with a throbbing headache and take two Tylenol PMs, and sit down to write an article.

My phone rings and I smile - it is my daughter. I answer the phone, "Hey Princess!" "MOM! Have you checked your phone? Have you got any texts from your brothers?" "No, I didn't get any, why?" "Mom, Grandad is in the hospital - call Granny!" I hung up on her and dialed my mom.

I hang up the phone with my mom promising to drive the 4 hours to where they live in the morning. With the medicine I just took, I will crash, so I am not safe to drive. First thing in the morning, I head out. I have talked to my brothers, and they assure me that dad is fine but they are running more tests. I cannot helped but be stressed out. He's my dad.

My dad is 90. He has lived a very full life, and I am very blessed to have both of my parents - I know this. My dad has had several strokes, hundreds of falls, but really, these are his only health issues. His medical history is remarkably healthy, except for the stroke, and possibly, undiagnosed depression. I remember when he was 84, he started to become a lot more quiet. One day he made the remark to me that caught me totally off guard. He said he would die when he turns 85. I asked him why he would say that. He answered, "because my dad died when he was 85". I replied, "Dad, grandma died when she was 106, and you are more stubborn than she was." He winked at me and nodded.

He had his first major stroke at 85.

Now, here we sit in the hospital. My dad is having a really hard time with his speech, and I can see his frustration in trying to be understood. His blood pressure is low, his GFR and creatinine are high, he is dehydrated. I can tell he is getting a little frustrated with my mom's chattering. I have heard "the story" about the 9-1-1 call already about 50 times. I don't stop her from retelling the story - someday I will miss her voice. I just nod and try to tell mom to be patient, we will get answers when the doctor rounds. No, mom, he is busy, he will be here when he can. No, he is not putting us off, he is doing his job with all of his patients here - answering questions from other scared families.

I try to keep an eye on what I can - his IV site, his repositioning, here dad, try to take a drink. His hand is puffy at the iv site, but the site does not appear infiltrated. The line is flowing at a high rate to flush his kidneys (per my brother who talked to the doctor yesterday). I elevate his hand on a pillow. I feel like I did SOMETHING.

Sitting. Waiting. Hoping. Praying. It is monotonous. It is incredibly stressful. I feel incredibly useless.

And then, she walks in, glowing sunshine. This patient care tech (PCT) had a huge smile on her face and I could not believe what a breath of fresh air she brought into the room. The way she talked to my dad, the way she beamed confidence, displayed cheer! She checked every aspect of my dad to make sure he was safe and comfortable. She took all of his vitals and offered reassurance to my mom on his ranges. She teased my dad (very respectfully) and brought a beautiful, handsome smile to his face.

I didn't want her to ever leave. I just thought she was amazing. I appreciated her so much.

I will never forget her. I know that may sound really crazy, but, for me sitting on the other side of the bed, I have a whole new perspective. I can only hope that all nurses everywhere make their families feel as good as she made my family feel. I know - that is a tall order....she did set that bar pretty high.

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

44 Articles   260 Posts

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3,726 Posts

This reminds me so much of the call for my dad's first hospitalization on his journey with CLL.

I never saw sunshine walk in, but every one of them allowed me to be the daughter I needed to be to my beloved father during the last 3 months of his life.


200 Posts

This reminds me of the two hospice nurses who worked with my grandfather during his last week of life. They were our sunshine. They were the ones who told us he was taking his last breaths, that we had time to love him and that we should hug and hold him in that moment. They were there when, after 5 days in an unconscious state, he opened his eyes during those last breaths, locked eyes with my grandmother, mouthed "love you."

Not that I wish it on anyone, but being on the other side makes us all better caregivers.

Dealing with staff from the POV of a family member for my mom, dad and wife gives me a better perspective and I think a better nurse. The things I saw that I liked I try to emulate, and things that irked me or my family member I try not to do (within medical reason).

Has 13 years experience.

Sometimes in our darkest days all it takes is one person, doing their job well, to make ALL of the difference. I'm sure that PCT treated the OP's family like she treats most of those assigned to her. It is a reminder that everyone has bad days at work, but we can ease the pain or at least provide a moment of distraction for others, by simply doing our jobs well.

ComeTogether, LPN

1 Article; 2,167 Posts

Specializes in Keeping my head above water. Has 8 years experience.

The idea that I possibly have or will make someone feel this way is what it's all about.


138 Posts

Specializes in OB/peds (after gen surgery for 3 yrs).

I'm right there with you, Julie. Thank you.


98 Posts

Has 3 years experience.

A good attitude goes a long way...on BOTH sides. I have been the nurse for former nurses and for patients who have very close family members as nurses. I've been pretty lucky that I've had fabulous family member nurses in the room. I'm intimidated because I'm worried I'm going to mess up. They have no idea if I'm a 5 day on the job or 5 year on the nurse. I think I do much better when the room is calm and we're all working together. Sadly it's not always the case. There was a patient on another floor who had family member nurses...2 to be exact. They intimidated the staff and took pictures/videos of every procedure that took place in the room. Imagine the pressure of working with that patient. I never mention the fact that I'm a nurse when I have an ill family member.


14 Posts

I never mention that I'm a nurse when my family member is in the hospital, or even visiting the doctor. But when my brother was in trauma ICU fighting for his life my mother would sling my job title at every single person who walked in the room! Like that was the magic juju that would fix all his injuries. The nurses and CMA's were already working their backsides off, doing everything humanly possible for him. I spent a lot of time apologizing for her and thanking the staff and generally trying to stay out of their way. He survived, BTW and I bought both shifts chocolate.

I have been a nurse for 23 years and tried to be a daughter for both my mom and dad. It's difficult to sit on the other side of the fence. Being a nurse and knowing all the things that are happening and praying so hard that you are wrong. I wouldn't have changed one thing that I did for them at the end of their lives. My dad was on hospice when he passed away and it that experience sent me to be a hospice nurse. That is such a double edged sword. Rewarding and heartbreaking at the same time. At the end of my hospice career my mom was on hospice. With the agency I worked for. It was harder then. I knew all the things I would have told my families as they sat vigil at their loved ones beds and yet all those words killed me to hear. My dad sent me to hospice and my mom ended my hospice career as I never thought I could care for my families again when I didn't know how to take care of myself. Time has passed now since my mom has died and I feel I may be ready to step back into those hospice shoes. Time will tell.


1 Post

As a nurse of 20 years i tell all the students i work with, to treat each and every patient like they were your mother or father. I give the best care that way. I have also had multiple comments about the personalized care i give. Love my job. Xx