How a Nurse Quietly Helped One Intern Out of a Tricky Situation

Illustration by Annelisa Ochoa. All rights reserved

Illustration by Annelisa Ochoa. All rights reserved

In this month’s Reflections essay, “My Turn,” a recently retired physician tells a story of how a nurse adroitly helped him through a very disorienting moment when he was still an intern. Here’s a bit of the setup:

Medicine was my first rotation as an intern. . . .

[T]he medicine rotation had a particularly intimidating reputation and a red-hot I was not. I was terrified.

On morning rounds every day our entourage of physicians, nurses, and students would go room to room discussing each patient. I can still see the open door to Mrs. Finkelstein’s room near the morning sunlight at the end of the hallway. Mrs. Finkelstein was old and was dying. And every morning when we walked in, her husband was sitting there next to the bed, holding her hand. He told us regularly how many years they had been together. We each dreaded being the one on call when she died.

There are many situations in medicine and nursing that require a certain amount of experience—most readers will agree that this is definitely one of them. At a certain point in the story, the author finds himself being asked a question that absolutely needs to be answered, and answered immediately. It’s not just the intern who needs help in this moment. The stakes are high for the patient and her husband. Failure is not an option.

As any experienced nurse can tell you, there’s a lot that gets left out in medical school (and yes, in nursing school as well, but that’s for another essay). The story that unfolds is poignant and engaging, and there’s even a certain humor at moments. The essay is free, so give it a read.

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Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

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