The Underlying Connection Is Nursing

Angel sculpture on grave marker

photo by author

Marcy Phipps, BSN, RN, CCRN, ATCN, TNCC, an ICU nurse who recently took up flight nursing, is an occasional contributor to this blog.

I recently experienced a series of events that seemed interconnected and orchestrated.

It started with my usual morning run. I was jogging out of my neighborhood, already sweating in the summer heat and absorbed—coincidentally—in an audio podcast about trauma care, when I came upon a man sprawled in the middle of a usually very busy thoroughfare. His motorcycle, badly damaged, was lying on its side next to a car with a crumpled door panel. The accident had clearly just occurred—traffic hadn’t yet backed up and no sirens could be heard heralding imminent assistance.

I had the weird sensation that I’d been running to the accident all along. I held his C-spine and monitored his neuro status while an off-duty paramedic managed the scene. Unexpectedly, a cardiologist I sometimes work with emerged from a nearby café and held his fingers to the man’s radial pulse, and then several more off-duty paramedics arrived.

It seemed fortuitous to me at the time—not the accident, of course, but the proximity of medical personnel who were so quickly available. And I had the impression that, despite not having worn a helmet, the motorcycle rider would be okay. He was talking to me, after all, and I didn’t see any obvious deformities or signs of severe injury.

About a week later, with the motorcyclist (and a shred of doubt) in the back of my mind, I glanced through the obituary section of the local paper. I should say that I almost never read the newspaper. When I do, I don’t look at the obituaries. And yet, on this rare occasion, I saw that not only had the motorcyclist succumbed to his injuries several days after his accident, but also that a patient with whom I’d developed a friendship several years ago had died, and that his memorial service was the following day.

I had never before considered going to a patient’s memorial service. This situation, though, was different. I’d written an essay for this blog last year about this patient, in which I explored the awkwardness I felt when providing nursing care to a man so often that we’d become friends. And though I’d lost touch with him after he was transferred to a long-term care facility, I’d come to know his family throughout his hospitalization and wanted to pay my respects. I was afraid my appearance would be awkward, but as it turned out, it wasn’t at all.

I was relaying the series of events to my brother, musing about the timing of my morning run, the way the appearance of the paramedics and cardiologist on the scene seemed almost conjured, the surprise I felt that the motorcyclist had died and my surety that if I hadn’t looked at the obituaries on that day, I would probably never have known that he had passed away, and that my friend had died as well. I told him that the death of both men, although completely unrelated, would be forever linked in my mind.

My brother, after listening carefully, said, “You know, you can look at it spiritually, or you can call it synchronicity, but I think people and events are connected in ways we aren’t always aware of. ”

His statement put into words the feelings I’d had when I was sitting in the pew at my friend’s memorial. I’d thought I couldn’t be his friend, and yet I was. And he was mine, as well, on a higher level that goes beyond defined nurse–patient boundaries I’d previously considered crucially important. It was a stroke of insight I attributed to the seemingly connected events of the week.

But the real connection, I know, has nothing to do with the timing of my run, finding an obituary, or attending a memorial. The connection is nursing, the perspective it affords, and the wisdom I find through practicing the profession.

Click here to explore other posts by Marcy Phipps on this blog.

Chief flight nurse at Global Jetcare. Regular author on this blog.

12 Comments

  1. christianliving2014 October 20, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss. Things happen for a reason. God placed you all there to help this man in need. Thank you for the job you do. You are appreciated.

  2. Povonte October 15, 2014 at 5:15 am

    Really beautiful. Thank you for sharing! Keep writing

  3. diggingher October 11, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Beautifully written expression of how nurse’s are touched by the lives of those we connect with. I had a similar experience as a non-obituary reader years ago, it’s almost as though we are suppose to know.

  4. celimene327 October 10, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Reblogged this on Breaking New Ground and commented:
    A very moving piece. Further reinforces my drive to become a nurse

  5. emmx2013 October 10, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    As one nurse to another, I also think there is a spiritual connection between people.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Evelyn
    Here’s to Your Health!
    evelynmmaxwell

  6. sacredhandscoven October 9, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    What I think is that nurses really have no clue sometimes. You are in our lives for such short periods sometimes, tending to our loved ones and just “doing your job”. Yet, so many times, simple phrases you utter in the performance of that job can bring us such comfort and such a feeling of peace that we are forever changed by you. But, then you leave the room and go on to the next patient, still shining that beautiful light of your soul on the next person with no clue that the person in the room you just left is transformed. Call it whatever you like, a job, a calling a way to pay the bills. You are so much more to the loved ones, than I think you are capable of understanding. Heck, I have observed this phenomenon for decades with my elderly parents and I cannot understand it either. I just accept that there is something special about the people who choose nursing. It is not a job one would choose to be glamorous, to be highly paid or for the great opportunity to have regular hours and vacation benefits. It is apparently one that people feel and live. From what I have seen, nursing is not a job, it is a way of life.

  7. gvkarmic October 8, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    Wonderfully written, thought provoking and spot on… Wonderful memories of the many and varied ways we connect and build relationships with our patients….

  8. abbymorales October 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I appreciate how well you conveyed your thoughts and experience. I come from a family of nurses and admire what you do.

  9. alexisbay October 8, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Beautifully written. Love the thematic unity of “connection” in this post.

  10. SygeplejerskeLE September 26, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Made me think of one of my first long nurse-patient-relations as a home visiting nurse. I too crossed the boarder between a professional and friend relationship. Close to the end I visited the patient with my child in my spare time and attended the funeral as the only person except from the widower… Ethics and nursing.

  11. Jo Ann Wilkins September 22, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Nursing is one big quilt and our patients and families represent the many threads as another writer posted. I am a hospice RN and have found many of these very same connections throughout my career. I attribute it to everything happens for a reason and God’s got a great sense of humor!

  12. Barbara Glickstein September 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    So moving and spot on. It made me think of the oh so many threads in my life connected because I am a nurse. Thank you.

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