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Reality Unscripted
The Heart of a Nurse

When I was a little girl, I always was attracted to the "injury of the day" on the playground. The more traumatic, the better. It didn't have to be bloody, it just had to be dramatic. I was literally drawn to the banged-up child, crying on the blacktop. I couldn't stay away.

Even as a child, I had the heart of a nurse.

As a student nurse, I stood making a patient's bed while he was in surgery and bawled because he was having a resection for colon cancer and would return with a colostomy. He was devastated and, so, it seemed, was I.

As a PICU nurse, I stood by an 8-year-old liver transplant patient as she slipped from this world. Her family had already said their good-byes and waited in the lounge. I simply could not leave her alone. I stayed until the final heartbeat, stroking her head and telling her it was okay to let go.

The need to comfort and help a hurting soul is what this profession is all about. It's what our patients need from us, and it's what we ourselves need to give.

Some of my favorite memories of nursing are those special moments when I've felt invested in a patient's life. I've cried many tears with patients and families, sometimes over a positive pregnancy test, sometimes over a deathbed.

If you're in nursing, you have stories of your own. We would love for you to share one that shows your own nurse's heart.

Read more Reality Unscripted articles

5 Responses to “The Heart of a Nurse”

  1. cappelle Says:

    Just as traumatic-dramatic scenes remind you of your heart as a nurse when you were a child, I find my heart yearning to be a nurse because I love finding that deeper connection with people. It seems when someone is ill that they are more vulnerable. Intimately seeing and experiencing their vulnerability places nurses in a unique position. Not only to provide care, but to connect to another human being on a deeper level.

  2. nursingaround Says:

    I never thought I’d be a nurse. I had no great yearning to heal the sick and comfort the dying. I went into nursing because I thought “Why not?”
    After twelve years I don’t know what else I could be. I can’t imagine not knowing what I do about looking after others. I’ve even forgotten what it must be like to not know about health and not have an understanding of illness.
    What I have found is that I can deal with many sad and traumatic events, and even though it makes me sad, I often can keep myself separate from it. But there are times that really do get to me, and it’s often the unexpected things. Let me explain…
    I remember quite a number of years ago an elderly Scotsman called Mr Donaldson. All the time he was in hospital he never had a visitor. His wife had died several years earlier and his two children lived abroad. He hadn’t seen a family member in three years. It wasn’t that they weren’t close, it was just that neither sons or father could afford to visit each other.
    Mr Donaldson had a bowel resection and the formation of a colostomy. He went home two weeks after his surgery. When he went home he looked reasonable well, although understandably weary.
    It was near christmas time, and in my part of the world Christmas means summer. This Christmas the whole town was on the street watching as the national pipe band competitions took place. For a whole two hours pipe band after pipe band filed by dressed in full Scottish regalia, kilt dagger and all.
    I was enjoying the parade, and then I saw Mr Donaldson, standing in a shadowed doorway at the back of the crowd. He looked even more pale than when he left. He looked even more thin and stooped. I was close enough to see what looked like moisture in his eyes. His eyes never left those of the pipers. He was wearing a kilt.
    I found myself near tears. It felt like this parade was just for Mr Donaldson, as if it was some final farewell.
    Another week later and Mr Donaldson was back in hospital. He was anemic, his colostomy wasn’t working, and he was coughing up a lung. They took him to the operating room where he died.

  3. PCT Says:

    I am a CNA going to nursing school. There are several stories that come to mind but one stands out. I was working on an oncology unit at the time. During report this one moring I was told, “The family is very needy and the patient is on hospice, sixty eight years old. Nothing we do can please them.” I went to this room first. I told the two sons that I was going to make their mother more comfortable and give her a bath. Now, at this hospital they use bath wipes…which I don’t like. So, I gave their mother a traditional soap and water bath. She was covered in sweat, groaning in pain. There was a picture of her as a young woman at the bedside. She was of the generation that never left the house with out makeup and an updo. I decided that her sons needed to see the mom that they remembered. I washed every inch of her and washed her hair very well. I combed her hair and parted it the way it was in the picture. This woman had lots of hair on her chin and above her lip and I removed it all, making her look like mom again. When the sons came back they cried and hugged me and shared stories of their mom when she was younger. They thanked me for making their mom look like a woman again. That night their mother died with dignity. I will never forget how that extra ten minutes comforted those sons.

  4. liz Says:

    I went into nursing becuase I really enjoyed biology and wanted to work with sick people and get them better. Mum told me I wouldnt like cleaning up poo etc, so I went and did part of my education degree, before I decided that wasnt for me,and went back to my original choice of nursing. I am just about to complete my degree, and I have to say Im glad I chose nursing. Its a great feeling when someone can go home at last and they thank you not enough for the care that we gave them.

    I have only affected by a death once. Had a patient who they knew was going to pass on in a matter of hours, but didnt on my prac shift. Since the other patients were discharged, she was the only one to look after, and the family were there all the time and that made it a bit emotionally hard.

    I dont know how I will deal with a patient dying on me though, that Ive like become fond of. We’ve had numerous people die at the nursing home, but like thats expected and its often a relief when they do die because dementia is such a cruel disease, and most of them are like bed bound, not a way to live your life!

  5. Christian Polinag Says:

    basically its making patient happy,loved and special.i still havent experience that “moment” but im willing to wait for that.maybe it will also be a turning point for me as a nurse.

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