This week I had the honor and the privilege of keynoting one day at the AWHONN (Association of Women’s Health Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses) National Conference. I had a good day!
3000 nurses from all backgrounds, different ages and geographical locations. But they had one thing in common. They have passion for caring for people.
In doing research for my speech, I spoke to many nurses. I didn’t understand how affected they get by patient interaction.
In one case, a nurse said “I had a patient tell me she was going to die. We prepared for the worst case scenario. We were confident she would be fine. She wasn’t. She never recovered and her family buried her 2 weeks later. That was 10 years ago and I still hold my breath whenever a patient tells me they are fearful something will go wrong.”
Another nurse sent me a text message after reading 37 Seconds and said, she will be taking our story and the lessons back home with her. In her words, “I am changing the way our practice listens.”
And a third nurse told me about how she planned her own delivery around the date her best friends would be working that day. She ended up having an amniotic fluid embolism and was in the ICU for a while before making full recovery. Her unit doesn’t want to talk about that day, EVER.
With each story, I made an adjustment with the way I thought about my own nurses who helped me get back on my feet. Of course, I thanked them profusely when I recovered, but what I didn’t acknowledge was their own “post-trauma” they had felt in the trenches with me.
I remembered the day, 1 year to the date I flatlined, going back to visit my doctors and nurses to give thanks. One said, “I saw you on TV and it made me happy to see what you were doing. But seeing you in person, made me acknowledge my own need to heal and having you in front of me, knowing you were ok, made me ok.” WOW.
What an impression one patient can have on another’s life. Never underestimate how you are impacting your caregiver’s life. Even if you think, they don’t care, it is just a job.
It couldn’t be farther from the truth.
They care. Almost to a fault. They cannot share with their loved ones the release they desperately need from what they see, or the guilt they feel or the questions they need answered. They come back to a job where they are with other nurses and share their war stories and continue to care for the next patients coming through the never-ending revolving door. Without any of those patients knowing what they just experienced the day before.
Are they tired? Yes.
Do they usually go unthanked? Yes.
Do many of them want to quit after seeing so much pain? Absolutely.
I asked, one nurse, what made her stay?
Simply put, she said: