Gratitude and Compassion

Gratitude & Compassion

When you get caught up in the clinical side of nursing, it can be easy to lose sight of your patients and their families…and why you went into nursing in the first place. These articles provide a gentle reminder that gratitude and compassion are critical to self-care and patient care.

  • Volunteering resources

    More than 1.3 billion people across the world lack access to basic healthcare services – mostly because the number of healthcare workers is not rising fast enough to accommodate the demand of a growing global population. The World Health Report says “the right workers with the right skills in the right place doing the right… Read more…

  • Mindful Appreciation

    constant nurse attention surgeonTip 6 of 6 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today In this last exercise, all you have to do is notice 5 things in your day that usually go unappreciated. These things can be objects or people; it’s up to you. Use a notepad to check off 5 by the end of the day. The point of this exercise is to simply give thanks and appreciate the seemingly insignificant things in life, the things that support our existence but rarely get a second thought amidst our desire for bigger and better things. For example: electricity powers your kettle, the postman delivers your mail, your clothes provide you warmth, your nose lets you smell the flowers in the park, your ears let you hear the birds in the tree by the bus stop, but… Read more…

  • Mindful Listening

    nurses mindful listening nursingTip 4 of 6 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today This exercise is designed to open your ears to sound in a non-judgmental way, and indeed to train your mind to be less swayed by the influence of past experiences and preconception. So much of what we “feel” is influenced by past experience. For example, we may dislike a song because it reminds of us of a breakup or another period of life when things felt negative. So the idea of this exercise is to listen to some music from a neutral standpoint, with a present awareness that is unhindered by preconception. Read more…

  • Mindful Breathing

    mindful breathing exercisesTip 1 of 6 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today This exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time. If you can sit down in the meditation (lotus) position, that's great, if not, no worries. Either way, all you have to do is be still and focus on your breath for just one minute. Read more…

  • Laugh, nurse, laugh!

    Victor Borge, the famous Danish comedian, pianist, and conductor once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Infusing laughter and humor into your work life is a powerful tool that can improve communication, reduce stress, foster cohesiveness, and boost overall performance and staff engagement. (See It starts with a smile.) Read more…

  • How to ease conflict and experience greater harmony at work

    Jeanette manages to beat traffic, clock-in on time, and begin her day. Everything is running smoothly. Then she and another nurse argue over who should take the next admission. Both of them already have full patient loads. Throughout the day, several more admissions and discharges take place, but Jeanette can’t get her mind off this dispute. “It’s going to be a long day,” she says to herself. Workplace conflicts Read more…

  • Clinical humility: A humbled patient care

    There's a story that goes something like this: An elderly man falls down a flight of stairs at home. In the emergency department, he’s found to have four broken ribs, a pneumohemothorax that requires two chest tubes, and a large gash on his forehead that needs 12 stitches, along with some of the usual cardiopulmonary comorbidities associated with older people. While in the hospital, the patient acquires Read more…

  • Give yourself the gift of self-affirmation

    We’ve all had days that push us toward the edge. The chaos likely starts around mid-shift and may go something like this: Radiology calls for bed 3, bed 6 is late for discharge, the emergency department is waiting to send two new admits, and Mr. Gilbert’s wife is signaling for you again down the hallway.  Your lunch break is sidetracked by a miscommunication with your colleague, and to top it all off, you just realized Read more…

  • The selflessness and dedication of military nurses

    Thirty years ago, Brigadier General Sarah Wells began the tradition of gathering nurses together to place flowers on the graves of nurses who served in the U.S. military and are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This biannual tradition continues today. Wells served as Air Force Nurse Corps Chief from 1979 to 1982. Members of the Society of Air Force Nurses (SAFN) Read more…

  • Building moral resilience to neutralize moral distress

    Moral distress occurs when one recognizes one’s moral responsibility in a situation; evaluates the various courses of action; and identifies, in accordance with one’s beliefs, the morally correct decision—but is then prevented from following through. The literature is replete with the mounting evidence of the incidence and sources of moral distress. Read more…

  • Look for inspiration in your fellow nurses

    In a perfect world, we nurses would be inspired daily by our patient experiences. They would come in such abundance that overtime, computer crashes, and 10-minute meal breaks would be minor nuisances brushed off like a piece of lint on our scrubs. The reality is this: Some days are hard. Some are plain repetitive. (I can say that because I’ve worked on an endoscopy unit. I remember a Monday we did 14 colonoscopies, nothing else.) Read more…

  • The will to live – and living well

    Groucho Marx said, “Marriage is the chief cause of divorce.” When we mentioned this to a friend of ours, he retorted, “Yes—and life is the chief cause of death!” In writing this reflection, we revisited the existential question: What is life? More specifically, what do we do with life at the end of life? How do we define the intangible or compare one life to another without knowing the passions that move each person to make certain decisions? Read more…

  • Leading through loss: Lessons for healthcare leaders

    One of the most painful experiences for any parent is the death of a child. The family is deeply affected by the loss, and the extended “family” of co-workers, neighbors, and community are also affected. However, not many organizational leaders, including those in health care, are prepared for the challenges that can face an organization when a staff member loses a child through an accident or illness. Read more…

  • Practicing emotional intelligence may help reduce lateral violence

    It’s been a stressful day at work — nothing new. Your patient fell, an I.V. line became occluded right when you were ready to hang a blood infusion, and a patient’s family became angry with you. We all experience stressful days, but unfortunately, sometimes we take our stress out on each other. Too often, this ineffective way of identifying and managing stress Read more…

  • Viewpoint: Lessons learned from nurses in rural Uganda

    It’s still dark outside our tiny pup tent, and the air feels humid after the sudden torrential downpour the evening before. The melodies of unusual songbirds welcome the morning to this remote village medical clinic in rural Uganda, Read more…

  • Compassion fatigue: Are you at risk?

    compassion fatigueFor many of us, nursing isn’t just what we do; it’s who we are. Most of us became nurses because we care about people and want to make a difference in their lives. Over time, nurses develop a nursing intuition and a working knowledge of disease and trauma. Our intuition, knowledge, and caring don’t automatically shut off when we leave work. Read more…

  • Combating change fatigue in today’s healthcare environment

    caring fatigueThose who work in the healthcare industry are well aware of its constantly changing landscape. Healthcare institutions are challenged to balance the provision of safe care with the allocation of essential resources. Changes in healthcare are aimed at increasing the efficiency and safety of care through best practices. Nurses, as the primary caregivers, are charged with implementing Read more…

  • From our readers: One patient’s story

    storytellingEric’s* storytelling made a difference in my nursing practice. Eric was a 27-year-old African American patient with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), who was admitted to the nursing home for wound treatment and dialysis. He was suffering with calciphylaxis, which is caused by too many minerals absorbed into the skin. Eric had painful wounds in both inner thighs. Read more…

  • From our readers: When your parent is the patient

    parentIt’s not easy when your parent is the patient. In my 10 years of being a registered nurse, I have learned a lot, seen a lot, and considered myself desensitized to the information and knowledge that comes with being a nurse. I have been a good advocate for my patients and always listened to their concerns. With all this in mind, how could it be so hard to be a daughter Read more…

  • The power of the positive

    PositiveBeing positive in a negative situation is not naïve. It’s leadership. — Ralph S. Marston, Jr., author and publisher of The Daily Motivator website Nurses may encounter many challenges and stressors in the workplace—long hours, rotating shifts, inadequate staffing, poor teamwork, and pressure to achieve higher performance levels in an emotionally and physically demanding field. The American Nurses Association found that the effects of stress and overwork are nurses’ top health and safety concerns, ranking higher than suffering a disabling physical injury or catching an infectious disease. Read more…

  • Viewpoint: Adding respect to freedom of speech

    freedom of speech The right to freedom of speech is a common topic in the news, but the reporting often doesn’t include a full discussion of the issue. We need to consider what we are not including when we exercise our right to freedom of speech. We need to look at the fact that although freedom of speech is a constitutional right, exercising that right can be hurtful to others and has, unfortunately, even been cited as an excuse for acts of violence. Read more…

  • Any nurse can do it: Sustaining change when volunteering overseas

    Arriving back in Ethiopia for the third time after having left only four months earlier, I had many questions. Had the Ethiopian nurses managed to retain the knowledge and continue the hygiene project I had started? Had my work been sustainable? Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. There are fewer than one physician and two hospital beds per 10,000 persons, the infant mortality rate is 67 per 1,000 live births, Read more…

  • From our readers: Two years after the Sandy Hook tragedy, PTSD remains

    Two years after the Sandy Hook tragedy, PTSD remainsAs my family got through the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, I have felt the need to share what is happening in the community with my nurse colleagues to show the long-term effects of the trauma. Nurses might ask; where are we now? What was missing when the recovery efforts were established? Did we get what we needed from all the aid that came upon our town? Read more…

  • From our readers: How a ‘45-year-old STEMI’ showed me the human side of nursing

    I worked as an emergency medical technician-paramedic for almost 8 years in a rural area before I became a registered nurse. Just before I completed nursing school, a new hospital began offering emergency cardiac catheterization services 60 miles south of the response area where I worked. As a result, our ambulance service implemented a program to provide acute care Read more…

  • From our readers: Do we really know who our patients are?

    Both nurse leaders and educators need to teach and model not only day-to-day nursing skills but the importance of connecting with their patients. In today’s often-chaotic healthcare environment nurses are bogged down with so many tasks that we, as nurses, forget to simply ask, Who are our patients? Read more…

  • Helping Sandwich Generation nurses find a work-life balance

    If you have at least one parent age 65 or older and are raising children or financially supporting a child age 18 or older, you’re part of the Sandwich Generation. Coined in 1981 by social worker Dorothy Miller, the term originally referred to women, generally in their 30s and 40s, who were “sandwiched” between young kids, spouses, employers, and aging parents. Read more…

  • Shaving as a metaphor for nursing

    Over the course of history, people have used metaphors to explain, contrive, reflect, and refute human phenomena. Health care (and all its challenges) has stimulated prolific metaphors to find meaning in its success, but more so in its failures. Military metaphors abound. Health providers are referred to as an “army” who “fight” in the “battleground” against the “enemy,” whether it’s a new strain of resistant organism Read more…

  • Beyond thank you: The powerful reach of meaningful recognition

    “I recognize that voice, that voice belongs to someone who is such a dream to me. [My nurse] was a shining light and made an unbearable hospital stay a little bit better.” The above quote from a patient desiring to acknowledge the extraordinary work of a nurse is an example of meaningful recognition. Identified by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Read more…

  • Florence Nightingale: Moments of interface between past and present

    During a recent clinical orientation with a group of about 170 nursing students, I projected a slide bearing a well-known photo of Florence Nightingale, and asked “Who knows this woman?” Only about eight hands rose—tentatively. The inability of current nursing students and recent graduates to recognize the founder of clinical nursing may stem from deficient teaching about the collective history of nursing. Read more…

  • From our readers: Harp song — A journey to remember and embrace the heart of nursing

    From our readers: Harp song — A journey to remember and embrace the heart of nursing“The aim of all spiritual paths, no matter their origin or the rigors of their practice, is to help us live more fully in the lives we are given. In this way, whatever comes from a moment’s grace that joins us to our lives and to each other – this is spiritual.” — Parker J. Palmer We never know when the lens through which we see our roles as nurses will widen to reveal a new spark of possibility for caring and an opportunity to deepen our spiritual awareness through this most remarkable profession. Even when we decide to leave the clinical setting or retire, we still remain “nurses” because in large measure, this is the essence of who we are called to be in this world. Read more…

  • From our readers: One nurse’s journey into patienthood

    As I lay on the table staring up at the ceiling tiles and waited for my biopsy to begin, I suddenly became keenly aware of the fact that I was now entering a very strange place. I was now a patient. I could no longer offer hope and comfort. Instead, I was hanging on every word spoken, seeking the meaning behind the eyes of every person who spoke with me about my disease, and realizing that my life would forever be different. Read more…

  • Recovery lessons from the Sandy Hook trauma

    Children are people with small hearts and big emotions that often come from the people around them, particularly family members. As a pediatric nurse and mother of two girls ages 6 and 4 in the Sandy Hook, Connecticut community, I am seeing firsthand the effects of psychological trauma among children and families in the aftermath of the school shooting that took place on December 14, 2012. Read more…

  • From our readers: Resolving the forces of bias and duty in caring for incarcerated patients

    In the nurses’ station of the 39-bed med-surg unit I double-checked my patient’s 2:00 PM medications against the pharmacy sheet and then started down the hall to his room. Roger (not his real name) was from the local prison. A man of about 36, he was recovering without complications from a cholecystectomy. Read more…

  • Tired of caring? You may have compassion fatigue

    Do you have trouble remembering what drew you to nursing? Do you take alternative paths through the unit to avoid running into a patient’s family members? Do your colleagues get on your last nerve? Are you ashamed of how you’ve started to feel about your patients, coworkers, family—and the world? Read more…

  • Battlefield nursing at the Boston Marathon

    Three yellow balloons danced through the air, hovering over the finish line after being released by the bomb blast that brought the 2013 Boston Marathon to a catastrophic close on April 15. We may never know who’d been carrying those balloons that day—the 117th running of the Marathon. But those balloons have come to symbolize the strength of the people of Boston, who’ve been deeply affected by the bombings. Read more…

  • From our readers: The guilt suicide leaves behind

    guilt suicide prevention family relatives blame helpless deathAccording to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, every 15 minutes someone in the United States dies as a result of suicide—about 105 people each day. For anyone who has known someone who committed suicide, you may be able to understand how almost everyone who knew that person has felt some form of guilt. Recently, I heard a speaker at a symposium say that the best way for change Read more…

  • From our readers: On being an oncology nurse, or humble pie by the slice

    oncologist_oncology_cancer_nurseI came to oncology nursing in 1984 through what I perceived as bad luck; my goal was to get out of the field ASAP. A new RN, I was completing orientation on a medical-surgical floor when the hospital decided to renovate it into a respiratory unit and our staff would be spread throughout the 400-bed hospital. Each staff member was offered a transfer to a unit of their choice, but my lack of seniority meant I failed Read more…

  • You can help stop the cycle of teen bullying

    Bullying refers to repeated negative activity or aggression intended to harm or bother someone that the aggressor perceives as less powerful. In many cases, bullying victims are harassed because of certain characteristics others perceive as “different”—for instance, physical or learning disabilities, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Read more…

  • Building a sense of community on nursing units

    Jeff Rawson, a new nurse graduate, works on a behavioral health unit. His manager believes his transition is going well—until Jeff asks to transfer to another unit. When she talks with him about it, he says he doesn’t feel a sense of belonging on the unit and has had difficulty establishing close relationships with coworkers. Read more…

  • Thinking it through: The path to reflective leadership

    Reflective leadership is a way of approaching the work of being a leader by leading one’s life with presence and personal mastery. Learning to be present, to be aware and attentive to our experience with people throughout the day is the focus of reflective leadership. It approaches the study and practice of leadership from the perspective of human experience. Based upon the science of phenomenology, reflective leadership Read more…

  • How to love and care for yourself unconditionally

    Are you able to relax, have fun, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life? Or do you:

    • have trouble falling or staying asleep?
    • smoke, drink, or eat to reduce tension?
    • have headaches, back pain, or stomach problems?
    • get irritated or upset over insignificant things?
    • have too much to do and too little time to do it?
    Read more…

  • Caring for older lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults

    Current discussions on the unique health issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have prompted the healthcare professions to reexamine their mission and values. The American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics reminds us that nursing is committed to the fundamental uniqueness of the individual patient. The preamble to the International Council of Nurses’ (ICN) Code of Ethics Read more…

  • From our readers…Hunger advocacy for nurses

    Since the mid-1990s, the number of hungry people worldwide has been steadily increasing. Currently about 925 million people worldwide are hungry—about 1 in 7 of the global population. Most sobering about this fact is that, for the first time in history, humankind has the knowledge and technical ability to feed all of its citizens. Read more…

  • A troubled life, a difficult death

    Editor’s note: National Homelessness Awareness Week is November 10-18. Like many of our homeless patients, "Sarah" was a bundle of contradictions. She came from money, got a good education, and worked as a college administrator before her addiction took over and her life spiralled out of control. She could be foul-mouthed and nasty one minute, eloquent and kind the next. She was well-dressed, with beautiful thick blonde hair, but her face had the pale, sunken look of an addict. Read more…

  • From our readers: The art of self-disclosure

    The art of self-disclosureOne aspect of the "art" of nursing is appropriate self-disclosure. Nurses and other healthcare providers often have an opportunity to share information about their own health to help a patient or family, or even a peer. For example, a nurse who takes niacin to lower cholesterol and raise high density lipoproteins (HDLs) may have found that taking the niacin Read more…

  • Viewpoint: Caring Science meets Heart Science: A guide to authentic caring practice

    Editor’s note: Viewpoint highlights the thoughts, opinions, and expertise of well-known nurse leaders. We welcome your comments about these thought-provoking articles. During these past decades, nursing has increasingly advanced as a distinct caring discipline and theory-guided practice profession. Read more…

  • Eye of the beholder: Grand rounds at the museum

    "What do you see in his eyes?" asks Dr. Rothenberg. After a brief pause, someone replies, "He looks sad." Another states, "He’s kind of emaciated." After directing us to look just below the left eyelid, Dr. Rothenberg asks, "Do you see a sign of a scar?" Several of us nod. She tells us this scar is a remnant of trachoma, also called Egyptian ophthalmia. This clinical scrutiny is taking place not at the bedside of a teaching hospital Read more…

  • What you can learn from failure

    Editor’s note: At American Nurse Today, we believe every nurse can be a leader. Rose Sherman, founder of the Emerging RN Leader blog (www.emergingrnleader.com), contributes articles on a regular basis to help nurses achieve their leadership potential. Rachel is an experienced critical care nurse who prides herself on her Read more…

  • Keeping your compassion

    Have you ever found yourself in the middle of your shift when you make a mistake in the care you’re providing—and you wonder, "Am I losing my compassion?" I have. It’s frightening, because what good are we as nurses without compassion? Sympathy and compassion can be hard to maintain in a job as stressful as nursing. Physical exhaustion Read more…

  • An encouraging word

    Has a compliment ever made your day? Perhaps it was just what you needed to hear to raise your self-confidence a notch or to encourage you in your nursing. So often we hear people say negative things about people or situations, while overlooking the good things. Every day, situations arise that force us to choose to be negative or positive. I want to encourage everyone to make an effort to be positive. Read more…

  • From our readers…Nonadherent or compassion challenged?

    nonadherent refuse treatment nurse challenged challengeOver the years nurses have labeled patients who choose (knowingly or unknowingly) to disregard instructions that could potentially alter their health condition toward a "better outcome" as noncompliant, reluctant, or recalcitrant. To soften the negative connotation the word noncompliant evokes, we have added descriptors such as "challenged." Patients are compliance challenged or nonadherent Read more…

  • From our readers…A cycle of caring

    nurse care caring present heartIt began a long time ago A woman walks through the dark room, with just a candle to light her way The soldiers can sense her presence She leans close, touches their hand, and looks in their eyes They know—it’s the nurse— She cares.   Many years go by A young child, bitten by a dog, goes to the hospital She’s crying and scared A woman approaches, dressed in white from head to toe and a cap just so Read more…

  • From our readers…How my bad experiences with call lights formed my nursing practice

    call light waiting patient hospital nurseI have been a critical care nurse since 2008. In our unit, patients have call lights, and of course, patients and families want them answered immediately. My practice is partly guided by two bad experiences I had as a patient, before I ever started nursing school. A long wait… By the time I was 20 years old, I had already undergone multiple procedures, treatments, surgeries, and medication regimens for complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). On this day, I had been admitted for the surgical placement of a peripheral nerve stimulator in my left leg. Read more…

  • Caring under pressure

    Compassion is an essential ingredient for great nursing. Without compassion, you might as well come up with another word for nurse. Recently, I visited a local emergency department (ED) for management of a small-bowel obstruction, to which previous surgeries had made me susceptible. I’ve had several obstructions in the past few years; sometimes, I must go to the ED for assistance. Read more…

  • From our readers…The nature of grief

    nurse grief overcomeA wise person once said, "Grief is not a disease or pathology to be cured. Grief is the tangible evidence that we’ve cared and loved someone." The author of this lovely quote remains unknown, but the quote speaks to us. Healthcare demands multitasking and running from one fire to another with barely enough time to catch a breath as the demands of time and tasks push us forward. Throughout Read more…

  • From our readers…How focusing on spiritual needs benefits the nurse

    nurture spirit nurseThere is no question that in the complex and fast-paced world of healthcare, high levels of stress and tension are just part of the territory. Medical and technological advances over the last few decades have been beneficial, but have also taken our focus away from “being” with our patients to “doing” for our patients to a large extent. A nurse’s day revolves around many tasks to accomplish and attention Read more…

  • From our readers…Talking to patients about a “weighty” issue: Are you ready?

    Talking to patients about a “weighty” issue: Are you ready?As the prevalence of obesity in the United States continues to rise, no doubt more of your patients are having weight issues that complicate their medical conditions and are receiving “lose weight" prescriptions from their healthcare providers. Although you may have no trouble explaining to the patient Read more…

  • From our readers…The Companion

    companion dog art sketch parkinsons MET

    Parkinson’s had taken away almost everything she loved. She, the artist, had spent her younger days in the upper rooms of McGuffey painting watercolors of Piedmont’s rolling hills and fields of wildflowers; she can hardly sketch now, let alone hold a pencil Read more…

  • From our readers…At the Bedside

    crib iron bedside nurse careAs my parents were approaching the age of downsizing their earthly possessions, I became the recipient of the generational family crib. It was the wrought iron crib that my father and his 12 siblings were tended to in their first months as infants during the early 1900s. It was the crib that my four siblings and I called home when we were babes. By current standards Read more…

  • From our readers…I remain in nursing because of you

    nurse inspireI remain in nursing because of you. We have yet to meet but, if you are my patient someday, this is what I will do for you. Because of you, I will use my best communication skills. If you birthed a child with an unexpected outcome, I will be there. If you want to talk, I will listen. If you want to cry, I will cry with you. If you are afraid, I will sit with you. If words fail me, I will give you the comfort of my silence. Read more…

  • My First Day in the ED

    emergency department nurseNote: This article was written before Kenneth graduated from nursing school. My first experience in an emergency department (ED) setting happened last week at Frankfort Regional Medical Center in Kentucky. As a new nursing student, one of my intended paths for my career will be as a trauma nurse, and this was a good introductory experience. A typical day in a small town ED is not all motor vehicle accidents, Read more…

  • From our readers…One nurse’s journey through grief: Loss of a Fort Hood family member

    overcome grief man alone growSpecial reports were on practically every news station during the afternoon of November 5th 2009; a shooting had taken place at the Fort Hood Army Base in Killeen Texas. With the television remote in one hand and a cell phone in the other, while watching the news and calling family, a weak feeling came over me because Specialist Frederick Greene, my nephew, was stationed at Fort Hood. The feeling escalated as reports indicated that the shooting had taken place at the readiness center. Specialist Greene had mentioned during his last call home that he had to go to the readiness center to complete his deployment paperwork and receive last minute vaccinations on this specific day. Read more…

  • Nurturing the tree of life

    In the United States, more than 15,000 families a year make the difficult decision to donate their loved ones’ organs. One day in August 2005, two of these families made the decision at our level I trauma center. Two young men who suffered nonsurvivable injuries were airlifted to our facility. Their deaths left a 7-year-old son without a father and an 8-year-old boy without a brother. Read more…

  • The little things we do

    nurse story remembering teachIn December 2001, the graduating class of New York University’s College of Nursing asked me to give a speech during their pinning ceremony. As part of nursing education, the pinning ceremony goes back to the time Queen Victoria presented a pin to Florence Nightin­gale for her pioneering work during the Crimean war. Read more…

  • Harold & Bill: An enduring portrait of another era

    In 1971, I was attending nursing school and working as an emergency department (ED) orderly. One day, two elderly men came to the ED. One was brought from a taxi in a wheelchair. The other man, who was there simply for company, followed slowly on foot. They waited silently. Neither spoke more than 10 words during the 2-hour wait and visit. They were men Read more…

  • A word about patients’ psychic experiences: Listen

    In her dream, a young pediatric nurse answered the phone at the nurses’ station and was told to go to the lobby where a gravely ill patient was being admitted. She went down to find a little boy in blue, pink, and white pajamas. When she looked at the boy, she realized she had cared for him, and she knew he would die from cancer the next day. The boy came gratefully into her arms. At the hospital, she told her supervisor about her dream. Read more…

  • Acts of kindness

    Many of us have lasting memories of a few special patients. For me, Joe is one of those patients. The day he was admitted, Joe was one of five patients under my direct care. I felt sympathy for him—not only because he had suffered a stroke and couldn’t speak, but because he was surrounded by confused and combative brain-injury patients. When Joe arrived at the rehabilitation hospital, no rooms were available on the stroke unit, so he was admitted to the head-injury unit. Read more…

  • Reflections on the heart of nursing

    nurse reflectionIn 1995, I toured the Florence Nightingale Museum in London. On the walls were letters that chronicled a lifetime of dedication, spent caring for others—letters that were preserved for those who followed. In recent years, I’ve thought that we may have lost such communication from generation to generation because e-mail has largely replaced letter writing, and the heartfelt reflections of nurses Read more…

  • And the music plays on…

    elderly couple song togetherIn the mid-1970s, I was a graduate nurse starting my career at a large, urban hospital. One of my patients, an elderly man named Eddie, had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. My nursing colleagues and I developed a plan of care to keep him as comfortable as possible while providing emotional support for him and his family during his final months. While caring for Eddie, I learned a great deal about the life he and his wife, Lottie, shared. Read more…

  • Silence and Solace

    flame nurse condolence“We think she’s gone,” he said. It was 6:20 p.m. I was walking down the hall on the med-surg unit, and turned to face a middle-aged man with quivering lips, his expression silently begging me to find a way to bring her back. I swallowed hard, took a deep cleansing breath, and tried to give myself a speedy pep talk. But suddenly I felt completely unprepared. I’d picked up this 4-hour shift at the last minute to cover Read more…

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