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Reality Unscripted
The Good I've Learned from My Docs

In the gazillion years I've been a nurse, I'm happy to report that I've learned a lot. Some from nursing school. Some from other nurses. Some from study. Some from patients.

And hard as it may be for you to hear, lots has been from my docs.

I call them "my docs" because I've spent most of my career in a family practice working with one specific doctor at a time. Truth be told, they are some of the finest people I've ever known, and probably a big part of why I love nursing as much as I do. I could never cover all of what they have taught me, in part because I may not even be aware of it. But I'll give you the short list:

  • Listen well-your patient may not even be aware of what the important info is. But as you listen, it's your job to pull it out.

  • Ignore the "red herring"-you have to figure out what info doesn't fit and is throwing you off track.

  • Make people feel like they're your top priority.

  • Understand that you're 50% therapist-if you are indeed listening well, sometimes you hardly even need to speak. Being heard is a healer all by itself.

  • Love what you do.

  • Give of yourself.

  • Keep your sense of humor.

  • Answer the page quickly if your spouse calls.

  • Be generous to your staff.

  • Go on mission trips.

  • Go the extra mile: make a phone call to gather more info; call an elderly person's son or daughter to fill them in; schedule the appointment for the testing they need if they're nervous; make a follow-up call a couple days after you've seen them--just to ask how they're feeling; and, go to a patient's spouse's wake.

  • Remember there are a hundred ways to help a patient heal that have nothing to do with medicine.

One of my favorite stories happened just last year. My doc had been on a trip and brought each of his nurses and MA's back a bottle of perfume. When I arrived for my shift, he mumbled and stumbled as he told me he didn't have one for me.

It turns out one of the patients he had seen that morning was having a particularly bad day. She was a widow and was feeling down. As only my doc could do, he read this all on her face. He walked into her room and said, "Betty, it's so good to see you! I was thinking of you on my vacation and brought you back a little something. It seemed like something you might enjoy."

She, of course, left that appointment on top of the world. Somebody cared about her. Obviously, I never got my bottle of perfume, but it didn't bother me one bit. I was thrilled that he had made this woman's day. That was a much better gift. It renewed my belief in what I do--and why I do it.

I hope you have some docs in your life that do that for you. I realize that they are not all wonderful, but in my experience, more are than aren't. Keep looking if you don't believe me.

I'd love to hear some of your stories about great docs and what you've learned from them. I'm sure it would be an encouragement to those nurses and students who haven't had the opportunity to find one--yet.

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