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 […]

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 […]

A Public Health Nurse at the Intersection of Birth and Death

by Lisa Dietrich for AJN/ all rights reserved

The January Reflections essay in AJN is called “Touching Death, Touching Life.” The author, Yaffa Vinikoor, is a public health nurse who describes a patient she refers to as Sidney. Over time, she’s come to know the worn furniture of Sidney’s small apartment and the details of his life, such as Arnold, his paid caretaker, and Sidney’s younger wife, who lives separately. Sid has dementia and several other conditions and is in decline. “Sid,” she writes “usually lay slanted, like he’d been haphazardly dropped onto the enormous mattress, hair askew and face contorted.”

The essay explores what it’s like to be pregnant while doing such work. Vinikoor’s situation that summer puts her in relation to two very different currents:

I continued to do my work in the city as a public health nurse with the chronically ill homebound up until the day I went into labor. . . . I continued to walk miles per day, the nursing supplies in my backpack bowing my back and the baby in my belly guiding me forward . . . . As I cared for those whose lives were in steady decline, I thought about what giving birth to new life would be like.

[…]

January 27th, 2017|Nursing, nursing stories, Public health|2 Comments

Home for Christmas: Flight Nursing and the Symbols of Hope

The Helm of Awe /courtesy of the author

As nurses, we all have patients who stick with us. I’ve thought of Henry many times since we transferred him six months ago from Dublin to an American hospital to undergo groundbreaking treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia.

His prognosis was poor—a fact he was well aware of. He’d told his father he wanted to “be done.” He’d had enough of hospitals and the medicine that didn’t cure him and only made him feel worse. He was ambulatory and stable from a medical standpoint, but had the drawn and haggard look of the chronically ill. Most disturbing was his reticence. There was none of the enthusiasm I’d expect from a 12-year-old riding across the Atlantic in a Learjet—he couldn’t even be coaxed to lean into the cockpit.

The only time he perked up was when we landed for fuel in Keflavik, Iceland. He sat up and gazed out the window on our approach, looking interested in his surroundings for the first time.  I found out from his dad that he’d missed a school trip to the island due to his cancer, and I started telling him all I knew of Iceland, which wasn’t much. At that time, I had never left […]

December 20th, 2016|Nursing, nursing stories|0 Comments

The Primary Care Confessions of Traumatized Patients

drawing of patient in waiting room Illustration by Hana Cisarova. All rights reserved.

In this month’s Reflections essay, “The Traumatized Patient,” family nurse practitioner Margaret Adams delves with sympathy into what she calls the “primary care confessions” of a challenging subset of patients. Writes Adams:

I’ve come to recognize patients like you—sometimes by your disturbingly long and detailed allergy lists, but more often by the frequency with which you come in for the same constellation of symptoms: fatigue, headaches, dizziness, general malaise. Something happened to you— maybe years ago, maybe recently—and it left its mark on you in irredeemable ways, . . .

While symptoms often do have underlying physiological causes, Adams is likewise attuned to the emotional subtext behind certain seemingly fruitless patient encounters. And with many specific examples, she makes the case here that the life of trauma plays itself out over time in the body and mind. […]

October 18th, 2016|Nursing, nursing stories, patient engagement, Patients|0 Comments