The Present: What This Visiting Nurse Has to Give

Illustration by Barbara Hranilovich for AJN.

Illustration by Barbara Hranilovich for AJN.

It can be daunting for a visiting nurse to enter a patient’s home, especially if the patient seems less than receptive to the nurse’s efforts. In this month’s Reflections essay, “The Present,” Pia Wolcowitz describes one of her first assignments as a visiting nurse. She’s sent to assess a woman newly diagnosed with lung cancer. Here’s an excerpt:

I rang the bell and heard a voice, but couldn’t make out what she said. I rang again. This time I heard her loud and clear. “If you wanna come in, come in! Door’s open!” Entering, I found a woman in her mid-60s sitting hunched at her kitchen table, surrounded by bottles of medication and a bowl of cereal. It was way past noon.

She had cropped blue-black hair with accents of white. She studied me a moment, then her gray eyes examined my ID. “So, you’re the nurse?”

When faced with a patient’s skepticism or despair, as in the situation described in this essay, a nurse may take refuge in indifference. Or that nurse may reflect that it’s even more daunting to have a terminal illness and be dependent on the help of strangers than it is to be a nurse for such a person. The nurse in this story manages to keep her perspective, do her job, and make a change that gives the patient back something she’d seemed to have lost. And that may be enough.

To read the entire short essay, which is free, please click the link above or click here.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor


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

One Comment

  1. Marianna Crane August 10, 2015 at 10:21 am

    This is a great example of what nurses do for patients, which is more than just dealing with physical problems. It seems so simple but it is far from simple in making that initial assessment and setting up the intervention that affects the patient’s quality of life.

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