Nursing: it’s not just about caring for the patient’s physical ailments

Jamie DeSnyder

By Karmanos Staff Nurse Jamie DeSnyder

I have learned that as a nurse, the basic life-saving techniques are not the only things that you need to know with this profession.  A nurse has to be patient, respectful and ready for anything.

This story about Ms. B. would test anyone’s patience.  I met Ms. B at approximately 9 p.m. when she came up from the Emergency Room for a blood transfusion reaction.  She had been stabilized and transferred up to the floor.  I was prepared to keep a close eye on her for any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional roller coaster ride she was going to go on that night.

When Ms. B arrived to my floor, she was very irritable, barking out orders to turn her, take her socks on and off, and put the head of the bed down.  Of course, I was compliant with her wishes, thinking, ‘Let her yell at you. She’s had a rough day.’ 

She fell asleep and slept quietly for about three hours when she woke up in a fury.  As I was filling out patient charts, I heard her scream “NUUUUURSEEEE!” I ran over to see what she needed. “I’m cold!” was her loud statement.  So I went to get her a warm blanket and turned the heat up. 

Another 30 minutes passed and I became engrossed in my charting once again, thinking the patient had fallen back asleep where I heard her yell, “HEY LAAAADY!”  Again, I ran over to her to see what she needed and she just yelled back, “I told you I was cold! What, you don’t have heat in here?!”

I explained that I had turned up the thermostat to 85 degrees and I would get her another blanket.  I checked her temperature at this point to see if she had a fever and she had none.  I covered her up with another blanket and she asked me to leave her room, which I obliged. 

Not even 10 minutes had passed when she was screaming about how cold it was and that she was going to get her lawyer and sue me for mistreating her so badly. I attempted to calm her down with no luck on my part.  I fetched her heating pads and more blankets.  I rechecked her temperature and she still had no fever. 

I was becoming frustrated as the night dragged on with her continuously yelling and screaming at me about how cold she was and how I was a horrible nurse for not fixing her problem. 

Finally 6 a.m. rolled around and I could not have been more excited to go home because of Ms. B’s constant yelling and screaming at me, though I was doing everything in my power to keep her warm. 

I started to administer her morning medications when she sat up at the side of the bed and said, “I’m not even cold. I have been just yelling at you all night for fun,” and then she started laughing. 

I wanted to rip my hair out at this point.  I went to walk away when I heard her burst into tears.  I turned around and she was sobbing heavily into her hands, saying that she wasn’t ready to die.  I hurried back to her bedside to soothe her where she put her head on my shoulder and just cried. 

After about five minutes, she lifted her head up and apologized for being so mean to me.  “Sometimes I just get like that because nobody is here for me,” she told me.  She explained her diagnosis, family situation and we talked about everything under the sun for the last hour of my shift.

When I was getting ready to leave, she grabbed my hand and thanked me.  “You’re really the only one who has put up with my attitude, and you still like me, even after everything I put you through last night,” she said.

I was in awe at this sudden change of character. I went home in the morning feeling awful about being so annoyed with her constant yelling over the last 12 hours, though I had learned so much from Ms. B.

I have always tried to have patience at the bedside, but I had never encountered a situation so trying before.  It was a slap back to reality that you don’t always know what a person is going through, and how hard it can be for that patient to be faced with a severe illness.

I came back that night with a different attitude. Ms. B was still there and I gratefully took her as my patient, since it seemed like we had left on great terms. I went over to say hi to her and she looked at me and said, “I am going to rip all of your hair out and you are going to be bald just like me!”

I just laughed as I thought, ‘Oh no, here we go again!’  I turned back to her before I left the room, and she was just sitting there, giggling up a storm. I remember thinking, this is exactly why I do this job. Being a nurse doesn’t just include the critical care tasks at hand, but the holistic part of caring for the patient as well.


2 Responses to “Nursing: it’s not just about caring for the patient’s physical ailments”

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