I’ve written about the doctor-patient relationship often. Whether it’s the need for communication and mutual respect or why primary care is important for patients with chronic illness, there’s much to say about this incredibly important relationship.
But when I read “Can Nurses Care Too Much?” in yesterday’s NYT, it occurred to me that I haven’t written as much about this other incredibly important relationship: nurse-patient.
In my personal life, I know a lot of nurses, and know how invested they are in their jobs and their patients. In my professional life, I often have nursing students in class and am always impressed with how engaged they are in what they do and how animated they become when patient care is discussed.
But it is in my patient life where I really see these qualities firsthand. For long stretches in my life I’ve spent several weeks a year as an inpatient, and from all those trips I can say this:
Nurses are the ones who can make (or break) a hospital stay. They are the ones who make sure my nebulizer medicines arrive on time, who jump in to give me chest physiotherapy if the physical therapist on the floor is tied up with someone else.
They are the ones whose conversations keep me distracted or encouraged, depending on what I need, and the ones who know that sometimes, visiting hours just don’t apply. In college, they calmed down my worried parents when I was an inpatient several states away, and they know that for someone who types all day long, getting an IV on the top of my hand is less than ideal.
Sure, I’ve had some negative experiences, just like I’ve had some doctor’s appointments I’d rather not repeat again. But the vivid memories, the faces and names and actions that stay fresh in mind, belong to the many nurses who have made serious medical situations a lot more tolerable.
Can nurses care too much?
That’s a pretty difficult question to answer because giving care can be such an emotional experience. (Be sure to read the NYT article, because the nurse-writer covers this poignantly.)
But what I do know is that when I’m wheeled onto a floor and my nurse comes in to greet me, or when I’m visiting a loved one and I see how compassionately and confidently their nurses speak with them, I am really glad that they do care.
In unrelated news, I just found out this week that Library Journal named Life Disrupted one of 2008’s Best Consumer Health Books. Check out the full list for some great titles.