Often lately I go to a local restaurant in the mornings to have coffee with whatever book I’m enjoying. The waitress knows I like the corner booth – the one tucked behind a tall plant where I can remain unseen for an hour. I like to read, and I like it quiet – but not too, too quiet…. Just enough noise to enjoy being among people, and that corner booth is just right.
During my most recent visit to this local neighborhood diner, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation from a table close by. A woman had visited her friend in a nearby hospital. Apparently, that hospital is the worse one in town. She spent the better part of two of my chapters hammering the place for what I have no idea were legitimate complaints and concerns or not, but I did wonder if she had anything pleasant or positive to say. I happen to have worked at the very place she was talking about. I also happen to know many of the nurses there currently – they’re pretty amazing, and so are the nurses at the hospital I’m working at now.
Eventually I closed my book, and I knew her complaints were coming from a place of fear for her friend’s health, a sense of love because she cared deeply and didn’t want to see her friend suffer, or worse yet – lose her.
My tired achy body wanted to correct her, and to defend every nurse I know who’s ever had a family member or friend of a patient complain about them. (If it hasn’t happened yet – just wait for it. It will). But, my daughter/sister/mother/friend heart of mine wanted even more to pull up a chair and encourage her.
After I stopped reading, I sat there and thought about all of the things I would tell her if I had had the courage to join these two women. I thought about all of the amazing nurses I have worked with, and those I spend my long shifts with these days. I thought about a conversation I had just the other day with someone in the locker room after she shared sad news with her patient’s husband, and I thought of many, many things I would have liked to say….
I wish you could see the list of your nurse’s patients, their medical problems, the long list of medications to be distributed to 8 different rooms – that’s 8 different people, at almost every hour of her 12-hour shift.
I wish you could see how many phone calls your nurse has to make in order to get your pain medication increased, and how long she must wait for the call back from the doctor, and the time it takes to get that ordered, approved by pharmacy, and delivered to her.
I wish you could see that while your nurse is taking care of those things, the other 7 patients are also in need of something, and there are 4 call lights on at the same time.
I wish you could see how fast your nurse moves to grab an emesis basin for the patient in the room next to yours when they say they’re about to…….. and your call light is on, and you’re waiting.
I wish you could see your wife’s nurse break down in the locker room because your wife has breast cancer that has spread everywhere – and that’s how her mother died just a few months ago.
I wish you could see the nurse tearfully changing her shoes to return home to her family, while telling us about her patient who is dying, and is the same age as her own mother. Too young.
I wish you could see your nurse walk slowly with another nurse all the way to her car, only to stand for another 30 minutes consoling her friend who lost her first patient today.
I wish you could see the nurse who pulls up a chair and for three hours he comforts the woman undergoing a painful procedure who doesn’t speak English, just so she can get through it, staying right next to her face, and never leaving her the entire time.
I wish you could hear your nurse crying all the way home wondering if there was anything else she could have done.
I wish you could see your nurse wake up in the night and immediately text the night nurse to check on your loved one.
I wish you could see the young nurse at shift change holding the elderly man’s hand because he was afraid to die alone. And he didn’t – because she wouldn’t leave his side.
I wish you could see the 75 pairs of filthy shoes that line the walls of our locker rooms – all with urine, blood, and God knows what else spilled on them. I often wonder how many miles are on them.
I wish you could see the nurse who brought her own pink nail polish in to paint the finger nails of the frightened young girl with Down syndrome. She felt like a princess that day!
I wish you could see the nurses cutting snowflakes out of white paper and taping them all over the ICU windows for the young girl who will never see snow again because she is going to die. And the Christmas tree one nurse put in that patient’s room, and the collection of gifts she took up.
I wish you could see how quickly we can devour a chocolate-covered donut when a break is just not possible. Or the nurse who every single day she works stops to get a Starbucks coffee for each of her patients. Or the nurse who paid for the hotel room for the family from out of town.
I wish you could see the nurse who winked at my Dad and took away every ounce of his fear.
And the list goes on…….
Anyone can be shown how to do a task. But kindness, thoughtfulness, and compassion? Those things cannot be taught. They just can’t.
I wish I’d have pulled a chair up to that table. I wish I’d have encouraged that woman somehow. I wish she could have seen her nurse during those kind, thoughtful, and compassionate moments that I’m certain took place.
Oh, how I wish she could have seen her nurse!