One of the things I love most about being a nurse, is story collecting. I'm that kind of person. I was the kid who sat at the adults table at family holidays and soaked up stories of family members long gone. Now I'm the adult for whom history and people come alive through their stories. Every life has a story.
Working with a primarily elderly patient population, I am incredibly blessed to be able to hear the stories of who these men and women are, and what made them the people they've become. Not only does hearing their stories enrich my life, but sometimes I think it helps them, too.
One gentleman I took care of in nursing school had all kinds of health issues. But if he could just quit smoking, so much would improve! His doctor, his son, and many who had worked with him said that he just didn't want to quit. But, while caring for him, I got a different story.
He'd first tried to stop smoking in his 20s. Two days after he quit, his father died. Several years later, he tried again. That's when his mother died. The third time he tried to quit, his brother died. The fourth time he tried to quit, his son was killed in Vietnam. After that, he never tried to quit again. When he opened up and talked about it with me, when he told me his story, he was able to let it go and entertain the idea that he could stop smoking and that nothing bad would happen to someone he loved. I told him that at this point not quiting was going to hurt someone, but this time it would be him.
I was there when he discharged from the hospital, and his son thanked me for being someone his dad could talk to. Me? A twenty-two year old nursing student? I hadn't done anything all that incredible. I just listened. But sometimes that's the best part of my job. I can't always fix what's wrong with the people I take care of. But I can always listen when they talk.
Note: I take HIPPA seriously. Names, locations, etc. are always changed to protect the privacy of my patients.