Nurses Give Hope Through Stories


“Nurses give hope through their stories.” I heard this from Lee Woodruff who spoke about her role as caregiver for her husband. A roadside bomb in Iraq had wounded Bob Woodruff, a news reporter. His wife spoke on the last day of the Beryl Conference that I attended in Chicago two weeks ago.

Ms. Woodruff was told soon after her husband’s injury that he would not walk, talk, or be the same person. By her account this prognosis was delivered by the neurosurgeon in medicalese.

“Hope,” Ms. Woodruff said “is what patients and family need.” Hope. Not false promises. “Why don’t the doctors give hope like the nurses do through stories?”

When she referenced both “nurses” and “stories” in the same breath, I listened carefully not sure what she was going to say next.

She gave this explanation: nurses told scenarios about other patients they had cared for with a similar diagnosis. These patients eventually were able to improve over time.

“Those stories,” Ms Woodruff said, “gave me hope.”

Over 20 years ago as I lie awake in the middle of the night after my mastectomy, the night nurse came to my bedside. She told me a story about her mother who had had the same diagnosis as I did and also had a mastectomy.

“This was many years ago and she is doing just fine,” she said before leaving me in that dark, chilled room—with hope.

Thank you nurses for telling stories and giving hope.