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. When friends and neighbors see family members coming and going with what appears to be routine “normalcy,” the […]

2017-04-07T10:17:17+00:00 April 7th, 2017|Nursing, nursing stories|0 Comments

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 […]

Worked at Home During the Blizzard? Not Nurses

Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann/via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve come through another blizzard here in New York. Many people worked from home that day (we did, at AJN, since the office was closed), or enjoyed the luxury of spending the day safe at home with family. But most nurses had to find a way to get to work.

Long Slog to the Bronx

Many years ago, I worked the evening shift at a hospital for the terminally ill. I was assigned to work on the day of a blizzard. I love my work and had no one to worry about at home, so I was determined to get to the hospital. I usually took a bus across the Bronx to work, but the buses weren’t running. My only option was to take the subway south to Times Square in Manhattan, then shuttle underground across town and switch to another subway line to go back north, to the east side of the Bronx. With luck I could […]

2017-03-20T09:40:52+00:00 March 17th, 2017|Nursing, nursing stories|3 Comments

When a Family’s Faith in Healing Collides with a Busy Hospital Unit’s Pressures

Illustration by McClain Moore for AJN/all rights reserved.

What happens when a family of strong religious faith is determined to continue praying for a young father’s healing even after he dies of a terminal brain tumor in the MICU? The room is needed for other patients; a nursing student and her preceptor cared for the patient during his final hours of life and are now expected to provide postmortem care.

It’s a tricky, somewhat tense situation, and initial reactions among the nurses in the hospital vary. Melody Sumter, the author of this month’s Reflections  (“A Place for Faith: My First Experience of Cultural Competence in Nursing“), was the nursing student assigned to the patient, who left behind a young wife and 10-month-old child.

Looking back on the event, Sumter recalls her competing sympathies at the time, and the way she was gratified to learn that the nursing staff at last found a way to honor the wishes of the patient’s family and also see to their responsibilities to other patients. Writes Sumter:

Seeing this family practice their faith was encouraging for a young nursing student like myself—as was the nursing staff’s acceptance and support of a belief that most of them didn’t understand.

The author […]