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Category Archives: Compassion

Nursing Nightmare

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Of all the horror stories that came out of Japan after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis, this story on CNN hit me the hardest.  As nurses, we want to do anything and everything for our patients.  We skip lunch (and even potty breaks) to make sure our patients are safe and comfortable.  We would do almost anything to save them.  I could never imagine leaving a patient behind to die.  But that’s just what Fumiko Suzuki had to do.

As the tsunami hit Takata Hospital, Fumiko saved those she could.  As she watched the massive wave approach the hospital, she ran up the stairs to safety, leaving behind those she did not have time to save.  After the tsunami, she stayed and cared for those who survived.

I cannot even imagine the pain she must go through reliving that moment.  I hope she knows she made the only decision she could have at the time and that she can “forgive” herself for having done what she had to. I’ll be praying for her.

Sacred Space

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As much as I sometimes hate the hospital, I can’t help but feel that it is almost a sacred space.  Leaving work the other day I saw a middle-aged women sobbing uncontrollably on her way to the parking garage.  Her teenage daughters were holding her up and pushing her onward.  I don’t know what their family’s tragedy was and never will. But I know that their lives were changed forever. I just hope that the nurses and staff were a sign of mercy and grace to this family in their time of need.

It’s an honor to touch their lives and do our best to relieve their suffering.



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I’ve just figured out why “burnout” is such an apt description of what happens to a nurse.

Four weeks ago I had a particularly frustrating patient.  She wanted her drugs and she wanted them now.  The doctor, correctly, refused her.  She came up to the nurses’ station to (once again) beg me for drugs. I refused her.  She started yelling at me and telling me, “If you hate your job, you should just quit.”

I told her, “I love my job. And I’m really good at it.”

And then it hit me like a sledgehammer.  “Oh, my gosh. I hate my job!  When did this happen?”

It was such a sad realization because I used to really love my job. I’d look at the old, dried up nurses and I knew I never wanted to be them.  I told my husband that if I ever hated my job and was that dejected about my profession to make me quit.

And just like that, it happened.  I can’t walk away just yet but  I have my application in to some other positions.    The thing about “burnout” is, once a bulb burns out, it’s done.  There is no going back.

A Very Important Person

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Several weeks ago, when I was getting report to start my shift, I was told that my patient, “MR. X,” was a VIP.  I immediately started to worry. Some people (VIPs or otherwise) are so used to being treated like masters that serving them is burdensome.  They don’t know why they don’t get fresh ice every hour, no one is ever polite enough, and they can’t stand the food.  Some of them order out for dinner consistently.  They think they’re at the Four Seasons—and that my helping them order out is the most important task of my shift.

However, Mr. X was a very pleasant surprise.  He is an elderly, retired gentleman, who was affiliated with our university for decades and received many accolades throughout the years.  When I walked in he shook my hand, asked how I was, and smiled. He complimented the staff and the food and never complained.  Every time I walked in the room he found a way to call me by name, smile, and engage me on a personal level.  He made us all feel important.  At the end of my shift when I said goodbye he said, “It was really nice to meet you.  Good luck with all your endeavors.”

Nice to meet you indeed!

Fragile People

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After donating blood a friend of mine wrote in a google buzz, “Why are health professionals so rough??? I’m fragile people!”

Sadly, we often are rough.  We spend so much time patching people up that pretty soon we’re like factory workers putting bolts on a widget.  It’s a form of “compassion fatigue.”  We’re faced with so much sadness and suffering that we slowly, subconsciously, learn to hold our patients at a distance.  But somehow, some patients, some situations, find their ways deep into our hearts.

This weekend I was changing a dressing on a particularly nasty bed sore on a sweet young lady that is close to my age.  The sore was so nasty, and the patient so young that I couldn’t help but my let my heart go out to her and to feel pained for her situation.  I did my best to let her see and feel my empathy and made sure to talk to the next shift about a few things that could be done to make her more comfortable.

To respond to my friend’s comment, we health professionals are also fragile people, but we’ve wrapped our hearts away so that we can do our jobs professionally and efficiently.  But we’re grateful for comments like yours, and for patients like mine that remind us that we’re all fragile people.