A NICU Experience shows the Art and Heart of Nursing

7 June, 2013 § 2 Comments


Source: Forrest General Hospital

A few days ago I talked about being a smarter nurse and the science of nursing.  Today, as I read a story originally found on The Spohrs Are Multiplying I am reminded of the art and heart (heart?) of nursing in which empathy and compassion are at the center.  Heather and Mike Spohr recount the experience they had in the NICU with their daughter Maddie and the post beautifully illustrates some of what it means to be a nurse.

Sometimes throughout our shifts as nurses it is very easy to slip into sterile, clinical mode.  We speak in a coded language designed to allow us to give reports quickly and efficiently in order to maximize our time and all of this leads to that sterile, clinical nurse that we have all become at some point.  It is easy to do; we get busy, we have medications to give, treatments to administer, doctors to follow-up with, charting to do, and on the most hectic of days we believe that we barely have the time to stop for a few minutes to offer warmth to our patients to let them know that we care.  In my short time as a nurse I have learned how to incorporate and convey that compassion even amid the chaos and have been validated by the kind words of patients and their families.  It is not a big deal to us, it is simply what a nurse does, but those small gestures can be huge gestures to patients and their family members especially when they are scared and hurting.

Mike Spohr discovered just that during the five years that his daughter was in and out of the intensive care unit.  He says

It was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that I first saw how amazing nurses can be…Each morning I called the NICU at seven a.m. to get an update from Maddie’s night nurse about how she had done through the night, and the moments waiting for her to pick up the phone were horrible…she would always tell us about Maddie’s night in great detail despite having just finished a long, exhausting shift.

The simple gesture of taking the time to tell Mike about his daughter in great detail, at the very end of the shift, when there was still, no doubt, much to be done, put Mike at ease.  There are not very many professions where you will find people ready and willing to give you as much time as you need when they themselves have absolutely no time to spare.  I admit, sometimes talking to a family is the last thing that I want to do when there is so much more to be done, but it is something I do with great care because they often have no idea what happened the prior day with their loved one.  Family members can not be there all day, everyday, but we are there so I always make sure that I am careful to give families the time they need to know their loved one is being cared for.  For a family to know that their loved one is being loved in return is a monumental thing.

Mike goes on to discuss the love and humanity conveyed by these nurses

Like the NICU nurses, these nurses showed Maddie so much love, mooning over how cute she was and making faces at her to keep her entertained.

There, sitting on a chair with a single tear rolling down her cheek, was my nurse. Her tear told me that she cared.

His final thoughts in closing

To Nurses everywhere… You should know that you have made a difference to so many people in this world, my family included, and I cannot thank you enough.

Nurses do not get the opportunity to hear this very often.  Our patients come and go and we are not their first, or not even their last provider.  We are intermediaries, helping our patients find better health and comfort and once those goals are achieved they move on and we often move on as well, going to the next patient to provide the same care, compassion, empathy and love.  As a nurse I do not expect a “thank you” or get upset if someone does not say it, I do not even think about it because this is simply what I do, no thanks required.

I have said before, we typically offer something that no other member of the healthcare team offers.  We are with our patients for 8,12, or 16 hours a day so we owe it to ourselves and to our patients to practice not only with the science of nursing but with the heart of nursing as well.

Head over to The Spohrs Are Multiplying and read On the Wings of a Nightingale, you will be grateful that you did but be forewarned, it left a lump in my throat.



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