wednesday was my last day of clinicals and i have to say, when i woke up at 5:30 that morning, i was not sure how i was going to make it through the day. between last saturday and that day, i must have gotten an average of two to three hours of sleep per night, and i definitely do not function well when i have not gotten my usual eight hours. given my emotional state from the previous evening and knowing that my patient for the day had just received devastating news regarding his health/disease process the day before, i was preparing myself for the saddest clinical day yet. but i had to go–this is what i signed up for.
i arrived early and when my clinical instructor arrived, i warned her of the possibility of me breaking down some time during the day. she said i can go home but i told her that i would not have the time to write a paper to make-up for missing a clinical day. i expressed my concern about caring for a patient who would possibly be in the lowest spirits while i am not at my best and she offered for me to switch patients. but i committed to being his nurse, knowing that he would be in this state on the day i would work with him. there was no question, i had to try to make it through the day if not for myself but for him, who was much more vulnerable and fragile than i could ever feel that day. i got permission to skip the morning’s group meeting and headed up to the floor, afraid to face the day.
but i could not have predicted what was in store for me.
i asked the night nurse how the patient was handling the news and she said he was fine, considering the circumstances. this seemed promising. i went into his room to let him know i was here and if he needed anything. it was 6:30 in the morning and he appeared more melancholic than when i had met him exactly 24 hours prior. he shared his bad news with me, not knowing that i was briefed about his condition even before i met him. strangely enough, he was still in higher spirits than any other patient i had had this semester. it made me want to work that much harder for him.
when i met my nurse, i figured i would be stuck with another one who did not care for passing on any wisdom and generally felt that student nurses just got in her way but i was wrong. she guided me that morning and entrusted me with responsibilities i had always been ready for but was never given by any of the other nurses. not only did i have my patient relying on me but my nurse actually believed in me and it motivated me that much more.
throughout the morning, my patient and his family were laughing and joking. i was surprised and inspired. for these people to be there, enjoying the day, perhaps more than any other day, was a scene i was lucky to have seen. i escorted my patient and his wife for a procedure and while i felt their anxiety, i also felt their determination to fight. at the same time, they didn’t treat me as a worker or a servant. they talked to me as a person.
the most touching conversation i had was with my patient when his wife had stepped out to make some calls. he began to reminisce about his life growing up, his father, his old job and friends, his dogs and his granddaughter. he confessed that he was afraid and that he had not gotten any sleep. aside from the feeling of pride that i had chosen those exact two nursing diagnoses for my care plan for him, i felt an immense amount of privilege to have been here with him and his family on this very day. i sat there and offered what i could say but mostly, i listened because i knew the comfort of having somebody there just listen while you let your emotions spill from your chest, through your lips and into somebody’s ears.
as a student nurse, i could not provide much for him in terms of caring for his health at that point. but as a person, i could provide friendship.
the rest of my clinical day with my patient carried on with one goal in my mind: to provide whatever i could, little as it may, not to my patient but for this man. he was a person too. and at the very core, that is what nursing is all about–touching people’s lives when they are at their worst and in turn, being touched by them and their circumstances. it is the human element. i am never going to look at this career as one-sided; i get something out of this too. every day, with every person, will give me humanity.
(that day, the doctor said that my patient did not have a recurrence of his disease but he would need to conduct a biopsy to be sure. i hope it works out for him and his family)