When I started working for ADVANCE for Nurses in April, I was immediately taken by the breadth and depth of skills that nurses possess. Since then, I have only become more impressed by the nursing field as a whole – its commitment to skill-building, patient-centered care, evidence-based practice and overall excellence. Perhaps, I thought, part of my admiration for nurses has to do with the fact that I am routinely exposed to the best of the best – award-winners, leaders in the field, nurses who seek to educate others.
However, since I started working for ADVANCE for Nurses, I have also been exposed to nursing in a different way – not just professional, but personal. My father has, for the past year, been dealing with metastatic melanoma. As you probably know, melanoma is a fast-moving cancer, relentless in its desire to spread. It has been a scary, trying time for my family. But through it all, my admiration for nurses has continued to grow. It hasn’t been nurses’ skills (although remarkable) that have captured my attention most. It has been their care and compassion – something that is easy to understand the importance of in theory, but hard to grasp the full value of until you experience it for yourself.
During my father’s recent hospitalization for pneumonia (the week before Thanksgiving), it seemed that perhaps I had less than usual to be thankful for this year. But the care that was shown to us by the staff nurses who took care of my father made me rethink that mindset. A few small actions stand out in my mind as examples of the care shown to us during that week.
Small Gestures, Big Impact
When my mother asked for the name of the combination antibiotic that was being hooked up to the IV, the nurse quickly rattled off the name; my mother repeated the name and pulled out a pen. My mother, a retired teacher who keeps impeccably organized records of my father’s care (so that his many doctors can all be kept up to date on his treatment), was happy for the information and immediately added it to the notes in her “treatment folder.”
Unexpectedly, the nurse returned to the room about 15 minutes later, between attending to other patients, to hand my mother a print-out of information on the drug – realizing that it might be helpful for her to understand how the drug works and to add the information to her folder. The nurse might not have thought that she was doing anything particularly special by printing out that drug fact sheet, but it was a sweet and human gesture that touched me on a tough day.
My father, the type of person who has a hard time being inside on a nice day, is not suited to sitting in bed all day. During this hospitalization, he was in a shared room, nearest the door. When his roommate got moved to another floor, the nurse overheard my father asking me to pull back the curtain so he could see across the room, out the window.
Without missing a beat, the nurse asked if my father would like to move to the other side of the room, so he could at least enjoy a view of the fall leaves and sunshine from this bed. This meant the nurse had to move not only his bed, but all of his monitors, to the other side of the room. This also meant that the housekeeping staff had to clean both sides of the room, instead of just one. Both the nurse and the housekeeper took on the task with genuine smiles and a “oh, it’s no problem at all” attitude. Such a small action had such a positive impact on my whole family’s spirits.
In light of the compassionate care we received over the week that my father was in the hospital, I had a different perspective come Thanksgiving. No, I wasn’t able to be thankful for perfect health among my loved ones. But I was able to be thankful for their unwavering love and support, as well as the support of people – relative strangers to us – who go out of their way to make this experience more comfortable and more hopeful. I was (and am) thankful for nurses.
Please know that, as you count your blessings this holiday season, many people out there are counting you and your colleagues among theirs.