I’m going back to work my last shifts as a nurse soon. I can’t believe I’m going to be done working as an RN. I say done ‘working’ as a nurse because I’m always going to be a nurse. Just with different initials and job duties.
The last time I was at work there was a bit of a kerfuffle. Essentially there was a patient who was dissatisfied with a few of the nurses. They didn’t have any problems with the medical treatment they received, the problem was with the care they received from a few of the nurses, or really, the perceived lack of care.
When I met the patient I realized what the problem was immediately. They were, well, let’s say, a more high maintenance patient. Every patient wants and deserves to be listened to, heard, and respected. This particular person demanded it (literally, loudly, and often), and was very upset when they felt they were not being listened to and not enough time and attention was being devoted to their needs.
It was challenging to take care of them, especially when they were already cheesed off. But I did my best, took the time necessary to listen and validate the patient’s needs and concerns until they trusted me and felt satisfied with their care. Like I said, it wasn’t easy. I worked with my cohort that night, taking turns caring for the patient and ventilating when necessary.
Nurses, and all care providers, are human beings. There are bound to be patients that just rub us the wrong way, or vice versa. It’s a fact of the job. One of the nurses who had torked the patient off said (probably mostly out of anger and fear at the very pointed, personal complaints directed at them) that it wasn’t her job to ‘kiss @ss’ and she had treated the patient just like all the other patients she takes care of.
So what is our job exactly?
Noun: A person trained to care for the sick or infirm, esp. in a hospital.
Verb: Give medical and other attention to (a sick person).
Noun: The provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.
Verb: Feel concern or interest; attach importance to something.
Our job is to care for patients. Which means we give medical and other attention to them. We are to care for patients, showing concern and interest, for their medical, spiritual, and psychosocial needs. We are also to care for them as individuals, whose needs will differ, requiring us to adapt our approach to care as needed. As I said, sometimes this can be difficult, and sometimes we need to step away, to get help from a coworker, to ventilate, but it’s still our job.
I’m not writing this to criticize anyone or anything like that. The nurses in the situation I described are all excellent nurses that I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with for years. I’m writing this so that I remember as I go on to the next phase of my career. I want and need to remember as I’m caught up in the long hours, the paperwork, the mounting responsibilities and demands, the increasing numbers of patients – that first and foremost, I am a caregiver. And my job is and always will be, primarily, to care.