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Nurse and Patient

Nursing graduates share significant clinical experiences

The May 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.”

These are the stories written by the May 2013 nursing graduates.

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

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Life Lessons from a Patient

by Katie Dietrich

“Multiple trauma.” That was the diagnosis listed on the census sheet. When I walked into Mary’s room that night, I realized the full potential of the word “multiple.” This elderly woman literally had a fracture in every limb of her body including her sternum and clavicle. Mary was a restrained passenger in a motor vehicle accident with her husband Jim*. She was brought in via ambulance, straight to the trauma bay where she was intubated and stabilized. Over the next few days Mary was extubated and went through multiple reparative surgeries. Jim was also injured pretty badly but was transferred to a rehabilitation facility while his wife was still in the hospital. Mary also had a history of a musculoskeletal disorder, which causes hyper-elasticity of the skin as well as loose joints. This preexisting condition is ultimately what made Mary’s bones fracture so easily and why her injuries where more extensive than her husband’s. I had never cared for a patient with so many injuries before, so I was feeling a little apprehensive about what my clinical day was going to be like.

The next morning on the day of care, Mary was so excited to see me even though it was barely 7 am. She was so pleasant and upbeat, despite her situation. She said she was looking forward to a great day with me and was very pleased to have a student. I could tell she was really genuine and truly happy to see me. Suddenly I wasn’t nervous anymore. I felt no pressure and could tell Mary and I were going to have an excellent day together. I told Mary that after her breakfast I would help her wash up and make sure that she got a complete bed bath that day. I also really wanted to wash her hair because I know this is often not a priority in the hospital. At this point in her hospital stay, all the big issues were taken care of and now it was those little things that really mattered, I knew that was exactly what Mary needed.

As the day began, Mary was already having tons of visitors: physicians, therapy, family, and friends. It was clear that Mary was a special person to many people. I tried to let Mary have plenty of time to visit so my time with her was limited. I did make sure to help Mary with a complete bed bath, wash her hair, and even put on a little blush and lipstick, which she absolutely loved! Although she was banged up and bruised, she still wanted to look good and feel good about herself and that is what I really wanted to do for her. In the time that I did get to spend with Mary, I could not believe how positive she was about the whole situation. She was not upset, she was not angry; she did not let it bring her down whatsoever. Mary was just thankful to be alive and thankful that her husband was doing well. Mary was also really excited because she was going to be discharged to the same rehabilitation facility as her husband and they would be sharing a room together. She was heading there later in the afternoon, which was another reason why Mary was so pleased to have her hair washed and looking good!

The care that I provided to Mary is best explained in Benner’s book, From Novice to Expert, under the domain of The Helping Role. Particularly the competency of “Providing Comfort Measures and Preserving Personhood in the Face of Pain and Extreme Breakdown” describes exactly what Mary needed at this point in her care (Benner, 2001). Although I did administer medications, monitored her condition, and offered patient teaching, these were not the things that made an impact on Mary that day. I was so proud of myself that day for recognizing the needs of my patient and providing such excellent and individualized care. I remember how rewarding of a day this was and how much it reminded me why I wanted to be a nurse in the first place.

I think sometimes nurses touch the lives of their patients, but sometimes the patients are the ones who touch the lives of the nurse. Mary truly knew what was important in life and she took nothing for granted. Sometimes when life is moving so fast we let trivial things really get to us, but that is not what life is really about. As Mary taught me, life is about being happy and being surrounded by people you love and love you back. Finally, sometimes it is the little things in life that keep us in high spirits, like clean hair and a little bit of makeup.