Friday, June 5, 2009

Strong Committment

I love working on the surgery obs unit. Those are the patients who come in to have surgery and then go home within 24-48 hours.

I had a patient who came in for a lap chole (laproscopic gallbladder removal) and ended up in an 8 hour surgery having an open chole. It didn't work laproscopic. He had just came returned from PACU about 10 minutes after my shift started. I had just enough time to get him tucked in and do an assessment before his family started showing up.

He was a Hispanic older gentleman who spoke NO English! I speak no Spanish. So the assessment was somewhat difficult, however we made it though and were able to understand each other JUST ENOUGH. He was scheduled for vitals every 2 hours, and labs every 6 hours, so the tech and myself were in his room alot.

At one point I counted 25 people in his room. Thank God for private rooms. He was so tired from the surgery that I am sure he was not aware there were so many people there. They were all very quiet, children included, and were just standing around staring at him. I kept thinking to myself, I was glad I was not the one in the bed being stared at by my family. They were very attentive and were good to move out of the way whenever we needed to do anything. There were very few of them that spoke English so the conversations between them an myself took a while so someone could translate and keep the whole family informed of what was going on.

It was 10pm and time for vitals and labs to be done. The tech asked me if I would ask some of the family to leave because she was uncomfortable going in a drawing his labs with so many people in the room. I explained to her that I was sure they would be leaving soon as it was getting late they had children. She didn't like this response too well but I just didn't have the heart to tell them to leave.

They were not doing anything wrong, they stayed out of our way and didn't interfere with taking care of him and they were very quiet. I was torn because I know I wouldn't like that many people around right after I had surgery and because I knew he needed his rest. However, he was resting and they were allowing that to happen. I decided that I would not enforce the visiting hours that technically ended at 8pm and I would allow them to stay for a while longer.

I realized that this was their father, grandfather, uncle, brother, . . .relative. . . loved one. This was their culture. I admired their dedication to this gentleman, their concern and love for him. I was saddened by the memories I have of all the patients I have cared for who had no one come see them, no one call, no one to send flowers or a card and no one to go home to when they discharged. I was touched by the committment of this loving family. What if we all this same committment. Would there still be discord among families? Would peopel realize how precious life is and decide to simply love each other instead of holding on to all the past hurts and disappointments that are shared in so many families. Would they hold on to the disfunctions or would they let them go to care for someone who is their blood, who is their family?

This family had it figured out! It wasn't about anything other than being there and showing their care for this gentleman. This is a time when families feel helpless and this family chose to not feel that way, instead they chose to be there, just in case. So he would see them when he woke, so they could offer him a moist cold sponge to wet his mouth when woke and complained of being so dry. So they could offer a hand during his times of pain. This was their way of coping with an ill family member.

How do you cope? Do you stay away because you can't deal with it? Are you able to let go of past hurts and disappointments to be there for your family? Don't wait until there is a reason to "rally". Don't wait until someone is sick to show them how much you care. I could tell from all the love shown in that room that this was a tight nit group and that love ran deep. Show the people you care about that you care. . everyday. Don't let anything get in the way and seperate you from the love of your family. Forgive. . . .move on. . . and let it go. You never know when they won't be there anymore. You never know when you won't have a chance to change your mind and decide that family really IS important.

I thought I was going to work that night to help someone else. I thought my job was to show compassion and care for the patients I had been assigned to. What I learned that night, is that I was there to learn from my patients. I was there to be taught about the compassion of a family, about the comittment of a family and the love of a family.

Don't let another minute go by before you decide how you will treat your family and loved ones. Will you be the committed family or will you let discord stay?



  1. What a loving and compassionate thing to do. You really do follow your calling and your heart, when it comes to the emotional needs of your patients.

  2. You, my dear, are a culturally competent nurse! Good for you!

  3. Pastor Sharon - I certainly try. Sometimes it is not always easy, but in this case, they weren't hurting anything. They were just being a loving, caring family.

    Southern Drawl - Thanks! I had never seen that many people fit in one of our rooms before. Didn't know it was actually possible. At the same time it was touching to see such dedication.

  4. Nurse, you are are an awesome nurse. Maybe someday, when I am a nurse, some of your great skill and being will have rubbed off on me.