Please Nurse: Needing to Feel Human Again in the ICU  

Ruby Vogel circa 1970. Courtesy of Shannon Perry.

The patient perspective below was written by Ruby Vogel in 1976, shortly after she was discharged from the hospital following a cholecystectomy and colon surgery. Her daughter Shannon Perry, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor emerita at San Francisco State University, recently received the document from her sister, also a nurse and former nursing educator, to whom their mother had originally given it.

According to Perry’s sister, who found the document while cleaning out some files, Vogel had thought her daughter could use the information to help her students understand the experiences of patients in the ICU. Some things were different back then—for example, says Perry, a cholecystectomy and colon surgery were major surgeries with several days in the hospital for recovery. But some things stay the same, and this vivid account highlights how patient-centered care—a touch, a hand on the brow—can make the difference. Ruby Vogel died in 1985.

Intensive care put me in a different world—of noises, silly ideas, and feelings. I seemed apart from people. They came and went but I wasn’t people, just that big sore place. I could hear and I could see. People didn’t seem to speak to me nor stay around long enough for my eyes to focus or my lips to form words. In and out. Checking! Checking! Checking! I could see and hear. Family, nurses came in, took a look and left. I was still there.

That awful machine next […]

2017-09-11T10:45:55+00:00 September 11th, 2017|patient experience, Patients|0 Comments

The Essence of Nursing Care: A Powerful Tribute for Nurses Week

“Frontline nurses, as the health professionals who spend the most time with patients and their families, are central to ensuring that the patient experience is a positive and dignified one.”

Susan Hassmiller

This sentence from “The Essence of Nursing Care,” a guest editorial in the May issue of AJN, isn’t just rhetoric. It’s based on a recent and unforgettable personal experience of the power nurses have to recognize and sometimes ease a family member’s suffering at the very worst of times.

In this moving editorial, Susan Hassmiller, the senior advisor for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, writes about the nurses who helped her in the terrible days following her husband Bob’s tragic bicycle accident last fall. Writes Hassmiller:

“My life changed forever on Sunday, September 25, 2016, at 11:09 am. . . .That’s when I learned that Bob, my best friend and husband of 37 years, lay paralyzed in the trauma unit of a nearby hospital . . . .During those 10 brutal days, I learned anew the crucial role that nurses play in caregiving and compassion. Three nurses stood out in particular.”

I won’t attempt to summarize the rest of this guest editorial. It’s as eloquent a tribute as nurses are likely to get this year on Nurses Week. The article is free, so we […]

2017-05-08T10:15:48+00:00 May 8th, 2017|Nursing|1 Comment

Recent End-of-Life Care Links of Note, by Nurses and Others

nature's own tightrope/marie and alistair knock/flickr creative commons nature’s own tightrope/marie and alistair knock/flickr creative commons

By Amanda Anderson, a critical care nurse and graduate student in New York City currently doing a graduate placement at AJN.

End-of-life care and decision making have been getting a lot of attention lately. The Institute of Medicine released a new report earlier this year, Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life (available for free download as a PDF).

Nurses who write often write about end-of-life matters. A couple of recent examples:

On the Nurse Manifest Web site, a look at the realities and challenges of futile care in America. Here’s a quote:

“I am currently teaching a thanatology (study of death and dying) course for nurses that I designed . . . to support students to go deeply in their reflective process around death and dying, to explore the holistic needs of the dying, and to delve into the body of evidence around the science and politics of death and dying.”

Or read another nurse blogger’s less abstract take on the tricky emotional territory nurses face when a patient dies.

Elsewhere on the Web
Vox reporter Sarah Kliff collects five strong end-of-life essays that recently appeared in various sources.

And here’s something very practical that might catch on: according to a recent NPR story, […]

Missed Empathy, Missed Care: Is It Time to ‘Reconceptualize Efficiency’?

A physician’s lament is nursing’s, too.

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

By Alan Cleaver/via Flickr By Alan Cleaver/via Flickr

Last week, the New York Times Well blog published “The Importance of Sitting With Patients” by Dhruv Khullar, a Harvard medical resident. Khullar expressed regret over not spending more time with a patient who was near death, and then discussed how little time residents actually spend with patients—eight minutes, according to a Journal of General Internal Medicine study (2013) that analyzed the time of 29 interns over a month. (The study found that only 12% of the residents’ time was spent on direct patient care; 40% of their time was spent on computers.)

Khullar detailed the various activities that take him away from direct patient contact and noted as well that the shorter working hours mandated for residents had the unintended consequence of reducing time with patients. He wondered:

By squeezing the same clinical and administrative work into fewer hours, do we inadvertently encourage completion of activities essential in the operational sense at the expense of activities essential in the human sense?

The second part of the question seemed especially pertinent for nurses. Hospital nurses have long lamented that paperwork, insufficient staffing, and nonnursing tasks keep them from the bedside. The promise of computers to reduce documentation time has yet to […]

At the Intersection of Hospice and Obstetrics, a True Test of Patient-Centered Care

By Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

Renee Noble with her newborn daughter, Violet. Photo by Heidi Ricks. Renee Noble with her newborn daughter, Violet. Photo by Heidi Ricks.

We’d like to draw attention to a particularly frank and thought-provoking article in the October issue of AJN. “A Transformational Journey Through Life and Death,” written by a perinatal nurse specialist who is also a bioethicist, describes a hospital’s experience in meeting the needs of a patient with two very different, potentially conflicting, medical conditions.

It was a sunny afternoon in mid-October when I first met Renee Noble. I had already heard about her from staff who had given Renee and Heidi Ricks, her friend and doula, a tour of the neonatal ICU and were taken aback when they asked to see the Hospice Inn as well. The nurses knew that Renee had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but no one had said anything about it being terminal. Heidi had insisted that after Renee delivered she would need hospice inpatient care. Alarmed, the staff had called me, the perinatal clinical nurse specialist, after Renee and Heidi left.

In addition, this is a patient with strong preferences about her own care, preferences that may be at odds with the more conventional approaches to treatment held by many nurses and physicians. […]