By Pam Duff, RN (Retired)
When I was a nursing student, I worked on the med-surg floor of a hospital. I have never liked hospital work. I have never understood why, but that was the road all nurses have to travel before branching out into their areas of later interest.
Every month or so, one particular Alzheimer patient would come in because of an infection, of one kind or another. Invariably, the nurse in charge of her care would tie her into bed because she would always come out to the nurses desk and just stand there or take the charts.
For some reason, I have always hated tying people down. Therefore, one day, I asked if I could be her charge nurse for that shift. I read her history and found that she had been a nurse. It did not take a “rocket scientist” to figure out why she was continually coming out to the nurses’ desk and going for the charts!
That day, I brought her out to the nurses station in a wheelchair untethered. I gave her some empty papers and charts, along with an assortment of pencils and pens. For the entire morning, she sat quietly scribbling, shuffling papers, and opening and closing the empty charts. She even resisted going back to her room and wanted to stay and eat her lunch at the nurses desk obviously remembering something every nurse has to do at one time or another.
When the other nurses asked me why she was out there, I told them, then added, That might be you or I someday. They all nodded with a new understanding. All too often we become so wrapped up in the mechanics of the job that we forget the person behind a diagnosis.
It was not long after this incident that I left the hospital and started to work in nursing homes, rapidly reaching the administrative level. Later, I went into home health care, where I dealt with the elderly in their own homes. But, no matter where I went, what I did, or how many patients I had since, I never forgot that one patient who forever changed the course of my career and my focus for compassion.