I took care of a glioblastoma patient for a few months as his health was progressively declining. I got to know his family and they told me they were comforted when they come to visit and saw me as his nurse.
Even if I wasn’t assigned this glio patient, I made sure to make time to go visit the family. They were pretty stoic and non-interactive in the beginning, but the first day I had this patient, I said “the hug factory is always open for business” and forced them to hug me.
Ever since that day, daily hugs were always given to every single family member. When new family members would visit and put their hand out to shake mine, I’d say no and dive in for a hug. Most were taken aback but later said that was the best part of having me as a nurse.
So after months of being intubated and extubated and flip-flipping between the neuro critical care unit and my intermediate unit, this glio patient was finally made CMO.
I was there the day palliative was discussed with the family.
I was there when the palliative consult was ordered.
I was there to discuss what I personally thought was best for the patient from a nursing perspective.
I was there when the final comfort measures only (CMO) decision was made.
I was there to comfort the family as patient orders were discontinued and tubes were removed.
I was there to give hugs as family members continued to visit.
I was there when the patient took his final breaths.
And I was there when the family came to pay their last respects.
As the patient’s daughter and son came to visit their father for the last time, they took me aside, held my hands, and said: “We were hoping you’d be here today. You’ve been nothing but amazing. We want to thank you for...well, just being you.”
The family went on to say that most nurses acted as if they were walking on eggshells when they provided care for this patient. The nurses knew he was dying but would sugar-coat it to not worry the family. Well, the family said I was the one who helped them the most because I didn’t sugar-coat anything.
They said even when the patient was non-interactive and unresponsive, I was the only nurse to continue to talk to him and explain everything I was doing for him as I provided care.
They said I took more time explaining changes in patient status to them than even the doctors did.
They said I was compassionate and comforting but I distracted them with my humor when they needed it the most.
The biggest takeaway from this patient story that I want you guys to understand is that you need to treat people like people. Patients are humans. They are individuals that deserve dignity and respect, even if they are unresponsive and non-interactive.
Take a few more minutes to hold an unresponsive patient’s hand as you give an injection or prime IV meds. You’ll provide a level of care that is unsurpassed. And I promise you, it won’t go unnoticed by the patients' loved ones.
Try to make a difference within nursing in any way you possibly can.
Go above and beyond every chance you get.
Hug a family member.
Discuss treatment options.
Hold a patient’s hand.
Just do more.
And think about this too: when a patient passes away, your work as a nurse continues but what about the patient’s family? Their whole world stops. Remember that.