Nurses on night shift like to tell ghost stories in the wee morning hours.
The longer we practice in the medical field, the more amazing the story. Sometimes opportunities arise to share these experiences, assuming all the right variables are in place, like sleeping patients, work that can be done at a later time, and just the need to chat and share.
Last night was one such night.
We all had survived a traumatic week of Obstetric emergencies. Thankfully, no one died.
But as we were debriefing from our mutual experiences, I could not help but think that nurses suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress, right up there with war survivors, policemen, firemen, crisis workers, social workers and teachers.
Then one of my co-workers described an unusual scene.
Years before, she worked in an old wing of a hospital, dating back to the early 1900's. The floors creaked. The odors were reminiscent of years and years of accumulated history.
A strange oddity kept repeating itself. My friend would go to do a patient assessment and the patient would say: "Oh, a nurse was just in and did all of that." (Blood pressure, taking temperature, listening to lung sounds, etc.)
Finally, my friend asked her patients to describe the nurse who had just performed duties that in a normal scenario, should have been done by my friend.
The description was always the same.
She was older, wore a white nursing dress, white shoes, white hose, and the dead giveaway: a white nursing cap.
Nurses don't wear those anymore.
Finally, the nurses took this story to their nursing supervisor who confided what everyone already knew: The nurse in question--the one with the nursing cap who busily did patient care before any living nurse on the floor---was a ghost! My friend further said that she decided to thank this nurse for all of her hard work for the good of everyone there.
Then one night, my friend felt a strong gut urge to go immediately into a patient room, who was gasping for breath. All heroic measures to save her were in vain.
She died of a pulmonary emboli.
But at least she did not die alone.
My friend said she knew the old nurse was the one who alerted her to this dire circumstance.
Again, she thanked her for her vigilance and diligent service.
The old nurse could be viewed as a ghost, or an angel, or a powerful guide for the unseen realms of existence.
Yet as she did her work, she made herself visible to those she chose to serve. And when the nurses consciously thanked her for her work, she alerted them to dire and critical patient-care emergencies.
Nurses often feel abandoned when they have to face critical life threatening patient situations.
A good example are the nurses who have 20-30 years of experience and work with doctors who lack experience but refuse to acknowledge the great work of the nurse, who actually saves a life, and the doctor takes the credit for it.
Rarely have I seen a physician give credit to the amazing skill of the nurse who assesses the patient hour by hour by the bedside.
When we call at 3 am, for any reason, we often are blown off for over reacting.
But it's really between us and the angels, the unseen forces and God, anyway. We don't do what we do to get short-lived approvalPsychology Articles, but for the heroic grace that accompanies good work and service.
And many of us may continue to visit the patient at the bedside and administer care long after we leave this physical life.
That is truly the most amazing feat of all!