Things we learn in nursing school
One of the things that we learned in nursing in school is to not talk about ourselves when we’re with patients. Something about not making the conversation around us and making the patient (or in this case patient’s family) feel like they’re not as important.
Quite frankly, that’s a load of crap.
I’ll give you a story as to why that is.
I was talking to my patient’s daughter today. She’s an ICU RN, so my respect for her jumped 100 fold.
Her mom was made comfort care. The neurologist said that there was nothing that could be done and that she probably had days.
We were getting her ready to go to hospice.
We were making small talk, as patient’s family members and nurses do in order to break that awkward barrier. She was telling me how she was telling her mom that it was okay to let go and she had finally accepted it.
I told her the story of my Lolo’s passing last year.
How my Lola had told him to fight through the illness and that he couldn’t give up. He had been through stuff before, so there wasn’t a reason that he couldn’t do it this time.
My mom and aunt had literally just gotten back from the Philippines after he had been discharged from the hospital when they got the message that he was back in the ICU. My aunt had flown on ahead. You can slam a gas pedal in your car to the floor, but you can’t make a plane go faster, no matter how hard to you pray.
My cousin is an RN and was at his bedside and had to make the call to take him off of dialysis. Everything was shutting down…the vasopressors weren’t doing anything…his blood pressure kept dropping like a rock.
Me, my sister, my mom, my aunt, the cousin who is an RN, and her sister in Abu Dhabi were setting the message thread on fire. My sister and I were at work when this all happened. She clocked in and powered through; I told Charles I was too emotionally compromised to safely work and he sent me home. On my way home, my phone dinged.
“Guys…Lolo is dead sorry :( ”
My mom wailed over the phone when she called me, and almost collapsed in my arms in the doorway…
The daughter interrupted my story to say something, I don’t remember what it was. But we had a mutual understanding though. Having encounters with death (or death in the foreseeable future) can do that.
We held each other and cried. Me mourning the loss of my Lolo and her mourning the impending loss of her mom.
After we composed ourselves, I went to go round on my other patients. When the EMTs came to take her via ambulance to hospice, I gave her Ativan to help her stay comfortable before I took out her IVs. She couldn’t tell me she was anxious or in pain, but I knew from her respiration rate being 36 that she was uncomfortable.
Her daughter was in the doorway and told me goodbye.
“Do you want a hug?” I asked. I’d like to think that I’m one of the few nurses on our floor who likes giving patients or patient’s family members hugs.
She smiled sadly at me. “I’ll always take a hug from you.”
She told me to stay happy.
I told the EMTs to take care of her.
And then I moved on with my day.
There’s a lot of stuff nursing school can prepare you for. It can’t prepare you for moments like this. Making connections to patients and their family member might just give a little light to some of the darkest moments of their lives.