It was one of those shifts.
One that dragged on and on and was mostly spent with the nurses huddled
together at the station, giggling over something ridiculous a patient
said. It was low-key and low drama. Perfect for seasoned nurses; a real bore for
new ones. Our manager, a gem of a lady,
came through handing out shots of expresso to boost us.
We were all laughing and having fun when my charge nurse
said quietly, “ Do you think we could move this group into bed 7?”
I looked at her surprised.
“How come?” I questioned immediately. Her response was equally quick.
“He was just made comfort measures, they are starting
morphine … and he has no family here or that’s coming.”
We all immediately stopped lounging and got up. Our orientees dogging our steps, we filed
into the room. All 9 of us on the
floor. We took turns murmuring our
hellos or simply squeezing his hand. He
peered at us and nodded. He had been on
our unit for a few weeks and we had all, at some point, encountered him. He was simply adorable. His wife had severe dementia and didn’t know
him anymore. His only son was
estranged. His neighbors had already
said their goodbyes.
One of the nurses who had him the most leaned over to him
and said quietly in his ear.
“Your wife is ok. She
will be taken care of…” she paused and squeezed his hand, “You’re with friends
He opened his eyes and looked around glassy eyed as his
oxygen levels dropped. 9 figures in blue
surrounded him. He nodded briefly and closed his blue eyes.
“My friends.” He repeated to himself over and over.
Tears clouded every eye in the room and the ones closest laid a hand
on him as we watched silently as the color drifted from his cheeks.
The new nurses looked around nervously as death came into
the room. The rest of us were stoic with
shimmers of tears threatening to spill over as we watched the last bit of life
drain from his face.
I stepped back and discreetly surveyed the room. All eyes were either looking down or at
him. Bittersweet smiles on their faces
as they knew he was at peace. 9 nurses,
side by side, grieved for this man whose family was unable to do so. It was in that moment that I could see how
lost the hospital would be without nurses, how sterile and heartless it would
become. I stood with 9 of my coworkers
who work short staffed constantly and nearly half have been hit or bitten since
I have worked with them. They are
degraded, ignored and yelled at by patients, families and staff… and yet they are the
most humane, sincere group I have ever known.