I am frequently reminded of the fact that we are members of an incredible and privileged profession but it was especially true for me recently. Nursing presents innumerable opportunities to take us any direction, we only need imagine. Personally (and professionally) I left direct patient care many years ago because of a desire to influence the care of individuals, families, communities and the profession on a more global level. Moving from bedside nursing into management, then to leadership has been immensely rewarding but has taken me far from the bedside, far from direct care, away from the kind of nursing in which we actually get to lay healing hands on other persons who are ill, injured, or in need of comfort. What is remarkable however, is that when we are thrown into a situation in which we are called upon by friends or family to assist in the hands-on care of a loved one, it’s like riding a bike – one never forgets. The tender touch, the soft words of reassurance, the concern for lifting and turning in a manner that protects fragile skin, the body mechanics that keep our backs safe, the back rub that relieves the impressions from wrinkled sheets, the meticulous mouth care, and every bit of human effort that a nurse’s hands can do to bring comfort to a loved one and solace to a grieving family.
I find myself in this moment because I recently had the privilege and honor to care my aunty in her final days on this earth. At almost 90 she was the picture of health until a mere six months ago and suddenly for reasons beyond reason she is gone. The matriarch of my father’s family, the eldest sister, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunty, widow, friend, and feisty “A’s” fan, devoted to a Godly life and unafraid for her journey “home.” In a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital, she was loved and cared for by family and friends, by well-trained and skilled nurses, and me. Even though it’s been many years since I had the profound privilege of caring for someone in this capacity it all came back like it had never left. It also gave me the opportunity to once again observe what families experience in these unthinkable moments, to experience firsthand what constitutes good nursing care. Clearly bedside nursing is fraught with stress because of never-ending demands of patients, families, and management. Whether it’s trying to prioritize which call bell to answer first, who’s the priority for pain medication, or trying to get out at the end of the shift, what we all need to remember is that we are there for our patients, our families, and our communities. That’s the bottom line, not only for us and our employers in the healthcare arena but for our patients. That’s what it’s all about, making sure that we are in the moment with our patients and their families, helping them to find comfort and peace in the most stressful of moments; providing care with the utmost compassion, dignity, and respect.
I was reminded of what we should never forget as leaders – the need for tenderness and compassion towards those entrusted to our care AND what my responsibility is as a leader in our profession – to entrust our staff with autonomy to make the right decisions. To know when to transfer a patient to another unit versus recognizing the discomfort caused with movement and stress caused to family. To know when additional staffing is needed to meet the growing demands of care, the increasing acuity of patients, and the thoughtful attention to family anxiety. It is therefore with immense gratitude that I acknowledge the time, attention, and compassion shown to me and my family by the nursing and medical staff at the new Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. And it is also with immense thankfulness that I chose what is in my mind, the most rewarding profession – nursing. Because with all my heart, I was able to do what I truly love – provide nursing care to someone I love at the most precious time of our existence. I am so glad I chose this profession and that you did too!
Sandra Haldane, NANAINA President, 2013-2014