As a part of the 50th anniversary of the BYU College of Nursing, a book was compiled called “The Healer’s Art: 50 stories for 50 years.” It has been 15 years since this book was first published and these stories were shared. We plan to regularly post selections from this book to help each of us remember and cherish the experiences of nursing and learning the Healer’s art.
As I entered the hospital for my second ICU clinical, I was expecting a normal, uneventful day. My patient, who was in a coma took little care, so I helped my nurse with her other patient, a 25 year old male. He had been in a car accident and was now a quadriplegic.
I was not sure what to expect from this patient because I had never taken care of a quadriplegic before. The nurses had been talking about how quadriplegics were the worst patients, especially when they learned how to “click” their teeth to draw attention. When we went in for our morning assessment, I was amazed at how young this patient looked. I realized he was only a few years older than I and would be paralyzed for the rest of his life. He would have to have someone take care of him his whole life. He was single, and now would probably never marry. My heart was saddened with the thoughts of his future and I admired his will to live.
I helped with his care throughout the morning. After the nurse and I were almost caught up and finally sat down, he started to click. My nurse started to grumble and complain about how he did not need anything, and that he was so demanding. Since I was not doing anything, I volunteered to go check on him. Through some careful lip reading, I found out he was hot (he had a fever all day) and wanted some cold water on his head. My heart swelled with sympathy as I realized he couldn’t even scratch his nose or put a washcloth on his head by himself. His request was small, but I wanted to make him comfortable, so for about 20 minutes, I sponged his head with cool water, washed his face, and dampened his hair. His eyes rolled back as he enjoyed the cooling sensation of the water. I talked as I worked and it was amazing the information I learned about him, even though he had a tracheotomy.
The more I served him, the more I loved him and wanted to help him. When other people would do treatments for him, I made sure I was there and they were careful and gentle. There was a connection between us, I as the nurse, and he as the patient, because I spent the extra 20 minutes with him.
It turned out to be a wonderful, yet hard and challenging day. I learned a lot about myself and about true nursing. When I started the day, nursing was just a matter of giving a bed bath, administering medications, and assessing. But as I left, nursing was caring. Caring to spend an extra minute to straighten the sheets, so he would not have to lie on a wrinkle; caring to make sure he was comfortable before I left the room; and caring to make a difference, however small in this man’s life.
As I look back on my nursing experiences, it is the time where I connected with patients and cared for their needs that I remember. I don’t remember when I placed my first catheter, or started my first IV, but I remember those with whom I spent time, nursing their physical and spiritual health. As nurses become busier, I hope I will still be able to feel that connection with patients and be what everyone imagines a nurse to be: caring.