I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
It was my third shift in a row. I rarely scheduled myself for more than two days back to back, but that’s just the way it was that week. By the third day, you had a pretty good idea of the patient team you’re walking into. I know I did. And I was not ready for it. These 12+ hour shifts had a way of sucking you dry—mentally, emotionally, physically. The telemetry floor I work on is especially fast-paced. No, the patients are not usually critically ill, but a million things to juggle for a team of 5 to 6 patients. The load is demanding in and of itself, but the day is especially taxing when patients are extra needy or uncooperative.
I had one patient on my mind that morning as I trudged up the ramp to my unit: 6740. He wasn’t uncooperative per se, but so needy this—to the max. I had cared for him the past two days and already felt my patience wearing thin and I hadn’t even clocked in yet!
In our unit culture, every call bell counted against the nurse; we have a goal of maintaining a maximum of 50 total call bells in one 12-hour shift. This man had record high numbers of 20 call bells a shift on average! In the midst of my morning grumblings, I cried out to God: “Jesus, I have absolutely no strength today. I feel so drained. You know I cannot do this on my own, especially today.” Silently I poured out all the ways I knew I came up short today. As I clocked in, I prayed these words. As I looked up my patient information I prayed these words. As I received report, confirming 6740’s excessive neediness, I prayed all the harder.
When I got report that 6741 was just as demanding, with a long suffering sigh and mounting frustration, I continued to pray for strength. And then the Holy Spirit prompted my prayer: “Father, I need you to help me love these patients as you love them. I need Your compassion for them to drive me. I have none to give.” I clung to that prayer the entire day. And the Lord was with me and he heard me.
I survived that shift, and most importantly, my patients survived. I handed them off to the night team and clocked out, spent and yet not defeated. I sensed victory and accomplishment. But how? Yes, the day had been every bit as hectic as I had expected. Yes, the patients in 6740 and 6741 seemed to have had a competition for who could wear me out the fastest. It got to a point where other nurses and techs who helped me answer call lights looked at me with pity. It felt like I could reach breaking point at any moment, and yet I did not break. In fact, I had just enough strength for the next task ahead and then the next.
Also, I noticed God’s presence with me in my interaction with those two difficult patients. Although I was exasperated with them at times, I didn’t hate them nor did I feel like railing at them. When I looked at these men, I saw individuals who needed care and may never have received the level of attention they received in this moment. I can’t say I was feeling particularly loving toward them, but I could see why they acted the way they did. Perhaps this was the compassion I asked for?
I have no doubt that God answered my prayers. As I reflected on the day, it wasn’t like those prayers had given me a surge of energy, so that I became this happy-go-lucky Energizer bunny. No, I was still tired and weak. But I had just enough strength in any given moment to move on to the next thing, the next patient care, the next physician interaction or family phone call. And before I knew it, it was time to go home.
And I left with a sense of accomplishment. I realize this is the way my God works. We go about our day to the best of our abilities and somewhere, he takes what we have and gives us more of him. I don’t know how He does it, but I’m glad he did it for me. And to that I say, “Thanks, Father.”
--Krista Doan, BSN, RN, is an NCF regional staff member in Florida.