I'll never forget Nurse Lisa. When our otherwise healthy daughter was hospitalized a few years ago with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Lisa saw Jess writhing in pain, tears rolling down her cheeks. Jess’ morphine dose was not scheduled for another 45 minutes, and the physician in charge could not be reached. “I’ll probably get written up for this”, Lisa said, grabbing a syringe. We looked on with tears of gratitude as Lisa broke a rule for us. In the coming days it would be the first of several ways Lisa made us feel seen, listened to and cared for.
Despite the best intentions and efforts of clinicians, today’s fractured system of care results in gaps and glitches that can be dehumanizing and/or harmful. That’s why, as someone who works in patient advocacy, one of my first bits of advice for anyone going in the hospital, is to make a friend. Odds are, it will be a special nurse.
When we talk “health care” lately, the conversation usually turns to the ACA, the AHCA, and worries about accessing health insurance and pre-existing conditions. That conversation will continue for months. But for this week, National Nurses week, let’s also take time to honor what is, now and always, an essential to good care: nurses. They may not always be able to cure us, but so often they can and do heal us.
I recently connected with Sue Hassmiller, Senior Advisor for Nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Her appreciation of nurses took on an even more profound poignancy last fall when her beloved husband of 37 years suffered a grievous injury. She wrote about it in a piece called "The Essence of Nursing Care", just published in the American Journal of Nursing.
Here's to those “Angels on Earth” who helped her immensely – good nurses, the very heart of health care. She writes:
"My life changed forever on Sunday, September 25, 2016, at 11:09 am. That's when I learned that Bob, my best friend and husband of 37 years, lay paralyzed in the trauma unit of a nearby hospital, having taken a hard fall from his bicycle. I asked to speak to him but was told he couldn't talk to me. I feared the worst, and over the next 10 days, the worst happened over and over again. I promised him, as we had always promised each other, that I would never leave him and that we would get through his accident together. Sadly, it was not to be. On October 4, Bob succumbed to septic shock.
During those 10 brutal days, I learned anew the crucial role that nurses play in caregiving and compassion. Three nurses stood out in particular. The first hugged me, and told me how much she cared and how she wished she could take away my pain. She stressed how wonderful Bob was and how lucky he was to have me taking care of him...." Continue reading...