She walked into the room and directly to the bedside of my patient. She made eye contact, smiled, made sure the blanket was covering his shoulders. She told him she was going to be his night shift nurse, and reassured him that she would take good care of him. She winked at him and gently touched his hand.
Then, the nurse taking over for me walked over to the corner of the room where our patient’s wife sat. She was crying, scared, anxious, had not gotten much rest, and had just made the most difficult decision in her life. She had signed her husband onto hospice.
The nurse got down on her knees on the floor in front of our patient’s wife. I’ll never forget it. She knelt on that filthy ICU floor, because at that moment the most important people in the world were her patient and his wife. She took her patient’s hands in hers, looked at her in the face, and asked, “How many years have you and your husband been married?”
And that very moment, roughly 12 years ago, has been as crisp and clear in my memory as what I did just yesterday. How do you forget a moment like that? A nurse like that? A hospital like that?
I was almost in tears. The nurse I was supposed to be giving report to made reassuring both our patient and his wife her first priority before shift change. Our patient felt safe. Our wife felt understood. They both felt valued. I felt blessed to witness that moment.
This moment rings true for many events in my life. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that most of the people who’ve influenced me in both inspiring and not-so-inspiring ways, don’t even know it. Oh, I’ve thanked a few, but not nearly enough of them.
Do you know what I’ve come to find the most attractive thing about a person? Selflessness. The very ability to think of others first. To know they are putting your needs before their own. When I reflect on the people I want to be more like – it’s a commonality among each of them, especially those who do it, and don’t even realize that you’re watching it. They don’t care. They’re not living that way so that you or anyone else can see them. It’s just part of who they are, and it makes them even more attractive.
There’s not a day I go to work and change my shoes (into my “school shoes”) when I get to the locker room and not think about this nurse. I’d be willing to bet that even in her retirement, her life is not all about her. For some reason, I’ve thought often lately about the nurses before me who inspired me. This nurse was most definitely one of them. What a legacy they don’t even know they’ve left behind them, that their practice was never about them.
And it’s my prayer this morning – because it’s something I need to remind myself of every single day, no matter what I’m doing.
It should never be about me, no matter what I’m doing. Ever.
” Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4