A Good Word

This morning I was reflecting on some of the more impactful experiences I have had throughout my nursing career. While there have been a great amount of sad and tragic moments, I was reminded of one glorious experience I was blessed to be a part of, one moment that changed the way I viewed my employer at the time, and shaped me as a nurse. 

We all know that labor costs are a big deal within a hospital. Sometimes nurses are chastised for staying late to finish charting, finish up patient care duties, etc. One night as I was trying to wrap up my 3-11 pm shift, I saw the cutest little old lady hobbling down the hall toward my elderly patient on comfort care. He was expected to pass in the next few hours and would likely be gone when I returned the next afternoon. I soon found out this sweet lady was his wife. Their only daughter had picked her up from a long-term care facility so she could be with him in his final hours. 

The adult daughter brought her to me and said, “I have to go home to be with my kids overnight, but Mom wants to sit with him tonight. Can she stay?” 

Just looking at this sweet lady, I could see she would not be able to care for herself. Unsteady on her feet. Meds? Maybe a little dementia? What about toileting? Hospital policies flashed through my mind and I knew I was supposed to tell the daughter no, she can’t stay. Take her back. But I couldn’t do it! This was likely going to be the last time she could be with him. 

It was a dilemma. I didn’t want to risk my job or injury to the sweet older lady. So I called the house supervisor and asked her to please come talk to the family and explain the situation to them because I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t have expected what she did. She said, “I’ll take care of it.” But she never showed up!! I was so irritated. 

Finally, I went into the patient’s room and found that the house supervisor had actually sent a patient companion/CNA to sit in the room with my patient and his wife for the entire night. My hospital had paid for a staff member to take care of them all night long!

Anyone who has worked for a hospital knows that is a huge thing! Usually the hospital would argue about paying 15 minutes of overtime. But that night, they made it all right by paying for a staff member to make it possible for those two to be together during this man’s final hours. 

Whenever I hear people complain about this employer, this is what I think of. I surely can’t complain!

Editor’s note: This narrative came by way of social media from Heather Schutza, BSN, RN, who currently serves high schoolers as a school nurse in the Pacific Northwest.

Heather’s story personifies the Scriptural prudence of Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

As nurses, we often have plenty of reasons to speak negatively of our employers, work situations, managers, or patients. Speaking good words, as Heather did, can illuminate the character of Christ in us and bless our hearers, and as Proverbs 16:24 describes, be “sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

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