Doctors, Health Care Services, Heart Valve Surgery, ICU, Nurses, Nursing Stories

 I Am Grateful to the Nurses

In 2013 I toured the new intensive care units back at the hospital where I volunteer. At the time I was acutely aware how outdated my nursing skills were and realized that I wouldn’t even be safe to flip on a light switch. The state-of-the-art machines were daunting. I never thought that three years later I would have a family member, my husband, in the new unit.

It did help my anxiety that I knew what the ICU looked like. I remembered there was a sort of bench under the window—all the rooms had a window—that could be converted into a bed for family to stay over. I had decided before Ernie’s surgery I would spend the night and as many nights with my husband as needed. So many errors occur in hospitals. In my mind, hospitals are not safe places to be sick. I would be the sentry for safety.

After my husband’s six-hour surgery, two heart valves replaced, my daughter and I found him in a high-tech Hill-Rom bed, unconscious, intubated, and surround by snakes of IV tubing and lines attached to various machines.Hill-Rom bed

The nurse caring for him introduced herself and gave us a “tour” of the landscape, that is, what medications he was getting, what fluids were draining out of what orifices and what the monitors were monitoring. The breathing tube, she said, will come out soon and he would be awake and alert tomorrow. Really?

That was when I decided to spend the night in a hotel room. Fatigued from worry about the outcome of the surgery, I knew a good night’s sleep would be more helpful than spending the night with beeping machines. Besides, I felt an immediate sense of comfort knowing that Ernie would be getting excellent care.

As I look back on this event, I am reminded of the post I wrote on February 23, 2014 about Dr. Arnold Relman, the former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. He had just turned 90 and fell at home, cracking his skull and breaking three vertebrae in his neck. After he had made a full recovery, he confessed that he had never made the connection between good nursing care and the patient’s outcome.

I had never before understood how much good nursing care contributes to patients’ safety and comfort, especially when they are very sick or disabled. This is a lesson all physicians and hospital administrators should learn. When nursing is not optimal, patient care is never good.

This he found out at the ripe old age of 90!

The next morning finding my husband alert and sitting up in a chair beside the bed without his breathing tube and looking surprisingly good brought me close to happy tears.

It’s been two months since Ernie’s surgery. He is getting better, slowly, every day. I continue to be impressed with the surgeon and his team that stopped my husband’s heart, touched, repaired and restarted it with skill and accuracy. They bring big bucks into the hospital coffers. They get the accolades and attention. At the end of the operation, they take off their surgical scrubs. Go home. Have a good meal. Get a good night sleep. But it was the nurses that watched my husband’s battered body around the clock, monitored his fluids, medicine, breathing, pain and his heart and put him on the road to recovery.images

And I am grateful.

19 thoughts on “ I Am Grateful to the Nurses”

  1. I was moved by your comment, “The doctors touched (my husband’s heart).” But far more moved by your words, “It was the nurses who watched my husband’s battered body around the clock.” How true!

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      1. Hi Marianna –

        I am so sorry to hear that Ernie and you have gone through this but am pleased that you are both doing much better.

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  2. Great post! With your nursing background, you were a trustworthy guide through the experience – I wonder how those of us who aren’t nurses would have felt in your shoes! I’m so glad things are going well with the recovery.

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  3. Very powerful, thank you for sharing. It brought me to tears thinking of the trust family’s have placed in me over the years and what an honor that confidence is. Thank you again. This post made my day.

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  5. True. And this was a huge part of why I left hospital nursing. If it takes the doctor until age 90 to figure out it’s the nurse that keeps his hard work from him going south, just think how long it will take the administrators that guard the bottom line like a pit bull to get it. My hat is off to the hospital nurses that manage to give great care despite everything stacked against them.

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    1. Sorry you felt the need to leave hospital nursing. I do believe we would have more nurses looking for jobs in hospitals if they were appreciated and recognized for what they do. Again my wish is, as always, that we tell our stories so the public knows what we do. The public includes hospital administrators and doctors.

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