Commentary from New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde: REMEMBER THE NURSES
During my father’s last days I was using a phone near the hospital’s nursing station when I noticed a young nurse talking to another patient’s family members. The conversation was not going well. The family was upset. Moments later the family left and the young nurse sat there alone sobbing.
I was struck by the moment. Anyone who has spent time in a hospital, as a patient or visitor, knows that it’s the nurses who are on the front line of medicine, and sometimes catching the fire.
My father was in the hospital about a month. I wished that there could have been one nurse who would have been with him all the time – someone familiar who we could always rely on for help. But then I realized that would not be fair to the nurses. Though the patients and their families want someone they can be attached to, the nurses cannot emotionally afford to become too close to anyone. Certainly the good ones know how to show compassion and to be supportive, but when one family leaves the hospital there’s another one on the way.
These days I talk most often to another type of nurse, a geriatric specialist working in an Alzheimer’s ward. People who work in that type of setting are special kinds of heroes. The nurses have had a good eye for troublesome symptoms. A doctor, who maybe visits twice a month, has to approve medications, but it is the nurses who have kept my relative alive – and my spirit up.
There is a nationwide nursing shortage. Young women, the largest source of nursing jobs, have many more opportunities on the job market. Plus, the hours can be long and unfavorable. Bless those who choose the profession.
That night in the hospital, I felt a need to talk to the crying nurse. Behind the uniform was a girl trying to do right. Sure there were going to be rude people in life, I told her, but don’t you realize how important your work is? Don’t you know how much we all need you?
She nodded, seemed appreciative but obviously remained upset. I wish I could have had the power to cure her, but this malady required someone with more skill. Like all of us from to time, she, too, needed a good nurse.
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