Friday, October 19, 2007

Just So, Sir

Every once in a while I get a patient who is unique. Really, every shift I have patients are unique. But the kind of patient I'm talking about doesn't stand out because of their life story, but more because of their expectations.

Tonight I took care of a retired military man. A life based on schedules and doing things just so has left him with a very strong sense of how things are to be done. The law may say that I have from 1530 to 1630 to deliver meds due at 1600, but for him, if the book says 1600 he darned well had better have them in his hand at 1600.

On a busy floor with a number of patients who have various degrees of acuity, sometimes doing things on one man's schedule is more than we are able to accomplish. Some of the other nurses have become a bit frustrated with the exacting standards of this patient and I can understand that. But tonight, I decided I would try to win him over. I brought him each set of medications at the exact time they were due. I listened to what he wanted and explained in plain English if I was or was not capable of providing it and why. I called him by his last name, or I called him sir (something I generally do anyway). I made sure to ask if there was anything else he needed and let him know that I was just a call light away, every time I left his room. I attempted to anticipate needs, and check in. As long as I stayed on top of him, he didn't give me any trouble at all. It was actually very satisfying when he asked if I would be his nurse again tomorrow.

Every patient is special. Every one is a special gift from God (even if I don't always see it). Every person has something that I can learn, and offers me a way to serve. And each one needs something that I can provide. Some need to be left alone. Some need to talk. Some just need their medications on time because everything else seems so wildly out of their control.

Once again I am shown the powerful gift there is in service, and that there is a vulnerability just beneath the surface of even the most controlling patient. They are vulnerable adults, after all, and it is a privilege as well as a duty to care for them.

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