Today I had a patient say to me, "Since my diagnosis, I have started doing a mass e-mail to my friends and family to keep them updated on what was going on."
Woah! Deja vu! Took me back to September 21, 2010. No, I didn't mean the 20th, I meant the 21st. I remember that day vividly. It was another bright, sunny September day. I remember standing at my front door, looking outside, and telling someone on the phone what happened. My phone was ringing off the hook, so this was one of many times I would be updating someone. Now the previous night, the night of the 20th, I did my first blog post about Leslie. But I never did it with the intention of sharing it. It wasn't until phone call number 1,001 that it occurred to me: I'm going to be blogging throughout this nightmare, why not share the link so people can stay informed, too? And from that moment on, it spread like wildfire.
I recommended to this patient that she should consider blogging. She is very overwhelmed with her diagnosis, so I have spent a lot of time talking to her and reassuring her. I told her that it is a great mechanism for "brain dumping" for herself, as well as keeping others updated. And then she would always have something to look back on to see how far she had come. She really liked this idea, but what surprised me was how, amongst all of her personal health concerns, she picked up on me saying, "when my sister got sick" as I told her about blogging.
Her response to that was SO touching. "So wait, you are so patient with me and all of my questions, because you have been there before?" Bingo! I've been there. No, not as the patient. No, it wasn't cancer. But it was tragic, scary, and completely changed me. I was the patient's sister who encountered so many medical professionals, and the ones that gave me the best impression were the one's that actually LISTENED. The one resident who came in the middle of the night as I sat by Leslie's side, listening to the ventilator whoosh air in and out of her lungs? He pulled up a chair and asked what was on my mind. I remember him. The nurse who saw me dislike when they'd ask me to step out so they could reposition her, and instead asked me to stay and help.... I remember her. They make a HUGE impact on me.
When this patient asked me if I am the way I am because of my sister, I was caught off guard. I told her that when I became a nurse in 2008, I'm really not sure HOW I was. I know I tried to be the best nurse I could possibly be, but I responded to her question with, "Yes, I suppose you are right. I have changed since then."
I still consider myself a "baby nurse", meaning freshly graduated and still learning. But I have found that all the knowledge in the world will not make a difference to your patient and their families if you aren't able to look beyond their diagnosis and see them as actual people.