Intimate Strangers: A Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse Reflects

By Lisa Dietrich for AJN.

“How do I talk about these things with a stranger unless I know how to be intimate?” asks pediatric intensive care nurse Hui-wen (Alina) Sato, the author of “Intimate Strangers,” the Reflections essay in AJN’s August issue.

Sato writes about “walking intimately . . . through the most devastating hours of her life” with a woman she’s only just met—even as her role as a nurse involves ending the life-sustaining treatments of this mother’s child.

Nurses will tell you such experiences can be common in their profession. But essays like this remind us that such experiences are also remarkable. Sato is the type of nurse who ponders her role, who stops after the fact to wonder what it means to be a participant at such moments in others’ lives. […]

2017-08-04T10:51:54+00:00 August 4th, 2017|Nursing, nursing stories, patient engagement|0 Comments

A Nurse Takes a Fall, and Loses More than Her Mobility

The Reflections essay in the July issue of AJN, “An Inconsolable Loss,” tells the story of a traumatic event that interrupts and forever changes a retired nursing professor’s relationship with her mother, “whose gentle touch and approving smile” she had always craved. Writes author Brenda Kelley Burke:

For a number of years, I’d made daily trips after work to a nursing home to visit my mother . . . .The roles of child and mother were now reversed because of her dementia. I felt acutely aware of the mother–child bond and how it transcends time and circumstance. How could I measure up to this wise and loving woman, who so many years ago would kiss my small feet before she put on my socks and whisper, ‘God, guide them to the safe places’?

But one bitterly cold and snowy night, writes Burke, “like the famous nursery rhyme character, I too had a great fall that left me broken.” Sometimes the seemingly fixed patterns of our lives depend on the most fragile of balances—one change can lead to many others, and suddenly nothing seems the same. […]

2017-07-05T11:03:05+00:00 July 5th, 2017|narratives, nursing stories|1 Comment

The Significant and the Superficial

Libby Kurz, BSN, MFA, RN, works as an OR nurse. Formerly a nurse in the U.S. Air Force, she lives in Virginia with her family. Her work has been published in several literary magazines. To read more of her writing, visit www.libbykurz.com

I often wonder why the world is the way it is. Why, above all other possibilities, do we have two eyes to see, a mouth that tastes, a body that needs food and fluid to sustain itself, but a mind that can entertain thoughts far beyond the realm of the physical world? The more I think about it, the stranger life seems.

People are odd, too. I’m always blown away by our quirks. There’s a surgeon I work with who has to eat his cereal every morning in the shower. He had a shelf built into his shower just for his cereal bowl. One of my coworkers has a pet scorpion and two snakes, but she hates spiders. An acquaintance of mine eats mayonnaise and peanut butter sandwiches.

Working as a nurse provides an environment where these ironies and oddities of life seem even more pronounced. I work in […]

2017-04-13T12:11:56+00:00 April 13th, 2017|Nursing, nursing stories|1 Comment

‘Blind Spot’: Reflections on Caring for a Severely Disabled Son

 “When I think of the term disability, a huge basket of a term, I think of the duration and breadth of my son’s life.”

The author and Luke

Much is being written these days in both the nursing and general press about the plight of family caregivers. As one myself, I’m well acquainted with the difficulties of maintaining a “normal” life (and meeting other responsibilities) while trying to ensure the safety and survival of a person you love. But what if your caregiving commitment begins at someone’s birth and lasts a lifetime?

In this month’s AJN, nurse Diane Stonecipher writes with grace and clarity about the challenges of lifelong caregiving at home. Even for an RN with committed and loving co-caregivers (her husband, her other sons), the work and worries are daunting.

“If Luke is our job, so to speak, there are also no sick days, holidays, vacation days, or ‘mental health days.’ We have cared for him while ill and injured, or until we simply cannot. By some miraculous grace, we have tag-teamed his entire life.”

The days, weeks, months, and years of those who care for severely disabled family members are probably difficult for others to appreciate, if you are one of those who care you should click […]

The Limitations of Rating Nursing Care by Customer Surveys

Ink and collage on paper by Julianna Paradisi 2017

Either They Loved It or They Hated It

While toasting the same English muffin for the second time that morning and cursing that it would make me late for work, I conceded we need a new toaster. It doesn’t matter whether I set the darkness level on 1 or 4;  the muffin comes out barely tinged. Select 5 or beyond, the muffin is burnt, and sets off the smoke detector. It’s time to buy a new toaster.

I found one I liked, shopping online. It had been purchased by over 1,500 other people; 55% of them rated it 5 stars. The other 45% of ratings ranged between 1 and 4 stars. The comments, however, were evenly split, 50/50. People either loved it or hated it. There was no in-between.

This made me laugh.

As with Toasters, So with Nursing Care

Likewise, many hospitals, in an effort to improve care, send out satisfaction surveys asking patients to rate their nursing care. In my experience, the results are similar to the toaster’s ratings: about half the patients rave about their care. Some mention their nurses by name, elaborating on specific details about their experience.

The other half complain bitterly that their hospitalization. The nursing care, they say, was the worst experience of […]