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Nurse and Patient

Nursing graduates share significant clinical experiences

The December 2013 Nursing graduates were instructed by their professors to write about a significant moment during their clinical rotations this past academic year. What came from that assignment is a compilation of touching moments between a nurse and his or her patient that give a glimpse into the compassion and devotion nurses provide their patients every day.

Professor Joan Timalonis writes, “these exemplar stories are a testimony to this courageous and healing spirit of Nursing. They reveal the calming presence you provided to families and their loved ones.”

*please note that the names of all patients have been changed for confidentiality.

Rosie’s Story by Tracy Ader

I have a picture of a flower hanging on my fridge that was made for me by someone who probably does not even remember my name; however I remember her name very well. This picture which simply says “thanks” down in the corner with a little smiley face inside of the “a” was made for me by a patient that never asked for my help, but who I was drawn to, and in the end I feel I was able to help immensely. Although I never performed physical care on her, or administered medications, I was able to help this patient using therapeutic communication and it still to this day remains one of the defining moments in my student nursing career. According to Benner (2001) in From Novice to Expert it was a helping role with a healing relationship in which I had developed with this patient that made the difference. Using therapeutic communication, I was able to mobilized hope for the patient, understand and accept where her actions had come from, and I was able to assist her in identifying and using various support systems. From this experience, I realized that sometimes all it takes to help a patient is a listening ear and a moment of your time. Perhaps being that person that cares when it seems like no one else does is one factor, which sets apart the novice nurse from the expert one.

At 7:30 that clinical morning, I walked into the rec room of a local psychiatric facility for youths to begin my clinical experience. It was raining that day, and in place of the usual outdoor scheduled exercise the kids were being given free time to interact with their peers and play games. I remember as I looked around the busy room of smiling faces one patient in particular stood out from the others as she sat alone on a window seat staring out through the rain, and holding a pencil and drawing pad on her lap. Her name was Rosie. She was a very pretty, quiet girl who stood out to me for many reasons, with the most predominant reason and the one which made her catch my eye being her resemblance to my 16 year old niece. From the clothes, she was wearing to the bright purple streak in her hair, and even her age, the similarities were uncanny. I immediately was intrigued with this young patient and I wondered what had happened that had led to her admission to the hospital. I sat down on the seat next to her and she immediately covered her artwork up as she turned slightly away from me.

I sat for several minutes trying to strike up a conversation but each time she responded with one word answers or silence. Then after several awkward attempts it paid off. I made a comment about the weather and how my niece was upset that the rain this weekend had caused the high school pep rally to be moved inside. The young girl looked at me curiously and asked me if it was a local school. I told her no, it was one from New Jersey, but that this particular high school went all out with their pep rallies having a huge bonfire which would not be happening now because of the rain. She responded that her high school was the same way and she wondered if they were having anything at her school this weekend as well. For the next hour we talked, mostly about her school, and she told me that she had been at the hospital for two weeks already and was really missing her classes and friends.

The hour flew by and soon it was time for group. Throughout the rest of the morning we were involved in many different group activities and sessions and I slowly was able to piece together Rosie’s story. I learned that this was not her first admission to the facility, and that along with severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and self-mutilation, she was here this particular time for having attempted suicide. At first I was shocked by this information, and I remember thinking to myself how could it be possible that someone so young and so similar to my happy go lucky niece could be so upset that she would choose to take her own life? However as the sessions continued I learned more about Rosie and as I did I was able to appreciate how much pain she had already felt in her short life. I learned that Rosie had already experienced loss of a parent and abuse from caregivers within her young age. I also learned that Rosie had survived multiple car accidents while other passengers in the car had not been so fortunate. Throughout the day I came to learn and understand so much about this patient, while all the while I was comparing her to my niece who I have always been very close to. I felt as though I was drawn to Rosie and I wanted more and more to help her in some way.

In the late afternoon, I finally had another chance to talk to Rosie alone. We sat down at a table in the rec room and I suggested we color since she loved art. While we colored, we talked and as I gained her trust I asked her about everything I had learned throughout the day. She looked me straight in the eyes as if deciding what to do and then all of a sudden the dam broke open and out flooded a lifetime of sadness. On top of what I already knew Rosie told me that recently some kids at school had begun bullying her and saying that it should have been her that died in the accident instead of the other kids. This was contributing to Rosie feeling sad, alone, and full of guilt. As she talked I listened and my heart panged for her as I thought about how difficult high school is for most kids without all the additional stress that Rosie had. I realized how strong this young girl must be to have made it so far already and I decided that she needed to see herself as I did.

I told her how amazing of a person she was to have overcome so much and I asked her if she believed that she had walked away from those car accidents for a reason. She told me that she had a younger brother named Ryan and that she felt as though she had been saved in order to be there for him. She told me that ever since he had been born she had been the one to care from him and protect him. Whenever she said his name her voice would fill with love and I seized the moment as I asked Rosie to think about what would happen to Ryan if she had succeeded with her suicide and could never be there for him again? With sadness in her eyes she told me that she had never thought of it like that. We talked for what seemed like forever and when we were done Rosie told me that for the first time in a long time she felt like she needed to get better and get home to Ryan. By using Benner’s (2001) teaching-coaching function I was able to break through to Rosie, helping her to identify a meaning in her life and a reason worth living for.

The whole time we had been talking Rosie had been doodling, and as my clinical day came to an end she told me that she thought I would make a great nurse and that she wanted me to take the picture she had made as a token to remember her by. I hugged Rosie goodbye, wished her well, and left feeling happy for Rosie and proud of myself for my accomplishments that day. Now every day when I see the flower picture hanging on my fridge it reminds me of Rosie and the impact one tiny conversation can have on a patient. Although I may only be a fleeting memory as Rosie continues on with her life, she is one of the few patients that I can honestly say I will never forget.