I got on the elevator this week with a patient. A quiet young man obviously heading to the infusion floor for his chemo treatment. Port already accessed, he showed the tell tale signs of his treatment regime in his pale lips (anemia), his hair loss (cap on, but no eyebrows), and likely fighting some nausea — ginger ale already in hand.
It dawned on me, these are the parts of a human the nurse sees when she looks at someone. She just can’t turn it off, the assessing.
We see a lot when we look at a patient, but there’s also a lot we don’t see.
We don’t see gender. Or race. Or ethnicity. We don’t see religion. Or political affiliation. Or whatever else someone might throw their allegence to. We. Don’t. Care.
We do see respiration and heart rates. We see capillary refill and blood pressure. We see clotting times and lab values. We see wounds that need tending and cancers that need removing. We see drugs that need to be given and hands that need to be held.
When I worked in the OR under the drapes we didn’t even see the patient at all. Everyone bleeds red blood — and hopefully not very much. That’s what we really saw. How much of that red stuff is on the ground and how much is still left inside that human? Because part of the job is to make sure we have more if we needed it.
I am blessed to have been trained in a profession which taught me about every person’s innate humanity. It taught me to take my personal slant on the world and stow it where the sun don’t shine. It taught me patients come before everything else — including my own ideas. There is only one rule —
Take care of the patient. Do the right thing. Do it every time.
That is the best way to keep your job, your license, and your ability to sleep every night. And in the end — it makes you a better Human as well.
As I rode the elevator up a couple floors with the young patient — I sent a wish out to The Universe to please let him know he was safe. Of all the places in all the world — he had landed ‘Ally Ally In Free’ in a place where the only thing that mattered was what he needed. I smiled knowing there was a facility full of people just like me who only saw that when they looked at him.
We only saw the need we could fill with our expertise, our time, our caring, our love and our compassion.
Nurses don’t see what other people see. They are constantly assessing for The Need. The wheels in their brains already halfway through the puzzle and on to an answer which fills The Need before any of it consciously registers. They are three steps toward the thing they have to make happen before the plan is fully formed in their mind. They are making sure their plan worked as soon as they finish with it. That is the nursing process.
Assess. Diagnosis. Plan. Implement. Evaluate.
We do it even when we don’t know we’re doing it. Because that is What Nurses Do.