Nurse's Story: Linda - The Intention to Comfort
The core of being a nurse is, to me, the intention to comfort and bring healing. It can be physical, spiritual or emotional, but with that intention you can literally change a person’s life in one shift. As I walk in from the parking lot to my job each day I think to myself, what is it that I want to get out of my day today? And I answer, I want to be joyful; I want to bring healing and comfort to whomever I come in contact with.
As a person who sees the cup half full instead of half empty, I created a daily commitment. I focus on finding the good deeds that people do every day and recognize those. I find two people each day to acknowledge the work they do or the way they do it. The surprised looks of appreciation are an incredible reward of joy for me.
In my current role as care coordinator, I make daily rounds with the medical team which consists of an attending, residents, interns and medical students. I had noticed that a young medical student seemed particularly shy and overwhelmed during rounds.“I want to be joyful; I want to bring healing and comfort to whomever I come in contact with.” This often invites more questions and there seemed to be a harshness from some of the senior teaching staff toward her. One particular morning, I could just see that this young woman was really struggling with this pressure. So, after she finished presenting her patient I said, “I just loved the way that you advocated for that family when you were giving your report this morning. It really tells me that you consider communicating with families a priority.” She burst into tears and said, “ You are the first person who has told me I was doing a good job.”
From that point on, every time she was reporting on a patient, she’d catch my eye and I’d give a nod of affirmation to her. The next year she was chosen to be part of the Residency Program. The first time she was assigned to my team as a resident, she gave me a hug and said she wished she had written to me to let me know that I made a difference in her life. The morning that I told her she was doing a good job, she was questioning her ability to become a physician. But I had helped her to see that she was doing the right thing and continue. For me, it was just a sincere observation and a comment given so willingly. But for her – it was life changing.
Nursing is one of the most rewarding career fields you can choose. As a nurse, you are involved in the most intimate experiences in your patients’ lives as you witness everything between birth and death. It is a courageous profession. It takes courage to walk into a room where you know that someone has just been diagnosed with a life- altering condition, and to meet them wherever they are at that moment, whether it’s to sit and cry with them or help them plan how they’re going to live. It is to be the privileged witness as they take their last breath.
I was blessed to work in pediatric hospice. It was the most challenging and meaningful work that I have ever done. One night I’d been at a house until about 8:00 p.m. with a child who was actively dying. The on-call nurse was going to make a visit after I left when the family felt like they needed support. I got a call about 2:00 a.m. that the on-call nurse was on her way out there and her car broke down. The family needed her right away because the child was dying. I agreed to go back out, but in the dark of the night I got lost and was not there when their daughter died. I could tell it was disappointing for them when they didn’t have the support they had counted on.
At the parents’ request, I went in and bathed the child. When I walked in the door, the mother was sitting in a rocking chair in another room just rocking, back and forth, back and forth, and she could not even look at me. She was just incredibly angry. They had other children, and they wanted to make sure that the body was taken before the siblings were awake. I finished bathing her and contacted the funeral home. They came out and at the family’s request, I carried her out to the vehicle. I could have gone back home at that point, but my work was not complete. My credo to always comfort had not been accomplished.
And so, I went in and sat at the feet of this grieving mother and waited. I waited until her rocking got slower and slower and she finally started to cry. As she started to sob, she let me take her in my arms and comfort her. There’s something about waiting in silence at the feet of a grieving mother. You can't do anything until she begins to let go. But it was my intention that compelled me to go to her and wait, patiently, until she could accept the open arms of comfort.
Power Strategies: Service, Empathy, Love
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