Night Watch

Editor’s note: In this tightly observed guest post, a nurse visiting a sick family member experiences the hospital as a kind of foreign country.

Eileen McGorry, MSN, RN, worked as a registered nurse in community mental health for over 30 years. She currently lives in Olympia, Washington, with her husband Ron.

The walkway is hard, the concrete cold, and I am immersed in darkness. Then there is the swish of the hospital doors and whispery stillness. The light over the reception desk shines on a lone head, bent over a book. A clipboard is pushed toward me. The paper on it is lined with names, some boldly printed, others scribbled, the letters unrecognizable. The spacious lobby is filled with individual groups of soft stuffed chairs and love seats. All of it quiet and empty. Over the chairs and sofas, the black of the midnight hour is changed into twilight.

I remember the bustle of the area at midday. Families gathered together, eyes searching the crowd for the green scrubs of surgeons. “She will live,” they say to some, and to others, “We will wait and see.” The frenzy of the day over, the empty chairs wait for tomorrow.

I sign my name in script. I use the old Catholic school script. The script preached by my mother, who is upstairs recovering from heart surgery. I walk past the chairs along walls so white they gleam. I […]

The Nurse Who Saw Me: Easing the Strain of a Mother’s Vigil

Illustration by Barbara Hranilovich. All rights reserved.

The Nurse Who Saw Me,” the Reflections essay in the May issue of AJN, is by JR Fenn, a writer and lecturer in upstate New York. The author, who is not a nurse, describes a night of uncertainty she spent in an isolation room on a pediatric unit with her sick daughter.

This is the kind of writing that helps a reader understand the perspective of a scared parent in a disorienting and uncomfortable environment. The care is efficient, and the clinicians she encounters all seem to be doing the right things for her baby. But reassurance is not immediately forthcoming, as we see in this passage from near the beginning:

The attending looks at us over her white mask when I ask if my daughter is going to be OK. ‘There isn’t the research for babies this young,’ she says, her eyes so huge I can see my terrified face reflected in them. I can’t ask any more questions because my throat has swelled closed as I fight tears.

[…]

2017-05-10T11:09:22+00:00 May 10th, 2017|Nursing, patient experience|0 Comments

Identifying and Addressing the Profound Mental Health Effects of Climate Change

Residents amid homes consumed by flood and fire, White Sulphur Springs, WV, June 2016. Photo © AP Photo / Steve Helber.

A new word for an era of increasing environmental instability.

A lot of attention is currently paid to the physical impacts of climate change, including extreme heat events, droughts, extreme storms, and rising sea levels. Far less attention has been paid to the psychological impacts of this change. For example, you may not be familiar with the term “solastalgia.” It’s related to the older word “nostalgia,” but was created to reflect the environmental and often related sociopolitical uncertainty of our current times—that is, of change that’s slow and incremental, and often even denied, and then sometimes rapid and catastrophic and impossible to ignore.

The term is explained in more detail in an April feature article in AJN, “Climate Change and Mental Health,” by Janna Trombley, Stephanie Chalupka, and Laura Anderko:

Solastalgia is a term coined a decade ago by philosopher Glenn Albrecht . . . It refers to the psychological distress resulting from degradation of one’s home environment.49 Solastalgia can occur as a result of events that impact climate change, including drought, wildfires, and natural disasters.49, 50 When […]

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 […]

A Place for Faith: Despite Chronic Illness, a Return to Bedside Nursing

flickr creative commons/by krassy can do it

Relearning the Details of Clinical Nursing

After being away from bedside nursing for over 11 years, I recently returned to this role on the same medical-surgical floor I’d worked on 11 years earlier. The impetus behind such a drastic transition was, in part, my return to nursing education as a clinical nursing instructor. As an educator, I felt the need to update my own clinical skills as I instructed young nurses eager to enter my profession.

The other reason for returning to clinical nursing had to do with a spiritual pull I felt in my heart, a hope that I’d be able to to show patients the compassion, empathy, and patience they all deserved. I’d come to realize that I’d sometimes lacked these qualities when I was a younger bedside nurse. Now I felt that God was giving me a kind of ‘do-over’—and I had to at least try to live up to this expectation.

Within the first week of orientation, I quickly realized how different things had become in the nursing world. The last time I’d worked as a clinical nurse on this very unit in 2005, the hospital was still using paper documentation, private community physicians still rounded on their patients, and there were no ‘computers on wheels’ or in patients’ rooms to access patient information […]

2017-03-08T11:17:02+00:00 March 6th, 2017|career, Nursing, patient experience|5 Comments