Patient Care is a Work of Heart

Stories - Heart StethoscopeLately, I have noticed a growing trend amongst health care workers both in the workplace and via social media: negativity. I cannot recall the last time I went an entire week without hearing complaints of “frequent flyers”, outrageous patient demands, and/or staffing issues.

Two of the posts I’ve seen on social media lately resonate heavily: one declares that “RN does not mean Refreshments & Narcotics”, and another was an argument against emergency rooms displaying their current wait times on their websites, because “if you need to check wait times it is obviously not an emergency”.

Entering into my fifth year as a CNA, I have had the privilege to work in a plethora of areas: a telemetry unit in a magnet-designated hospital boasting the prestigious Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award, both pediatric and emergency departments in a separate magnet-designated hospital, and finally a long-term care facility where I provide care for up to 28 patients per shift.

In addition to full-time employment, I am also a full time RN student where I maintain straight A’s and act as a student representative for my class, which graduates next spring. Needless to say, I have a deep-rooted passion for providing care and having any role I can in enhancing the well-being and quality of life of my patients/residents.

As a CNA I am typically spending the most amount of direct, one-on-one care with my patients. I am also completing the majority of “manual labor” and, in the grand scheme of things, taking care of most of the “dirty work” (code browns are my specialty!).

That being said, it constantly brings me great sadness watching the views of so many healthcare employees shift from unconditional compassion to increasing negativity and complaints.

Caring for others has never been a job for me, it is a part of my being, engraved deep into my core. Of course throughout my career I have had bad days.

I have been spit on, kicked, hit, cursed at, over-worked (just yesterday I had 11 total-dependent patients who all required a hoyer lift), and of course experienced a range of uncomfortable situations while providing perineal care or giving bed baths.

However (and far more significantly), I have also held the hand of people as they left this earth forever. I have comforted people who just lost their mother, father, brother, sister, lover, friend, or – most tragically – their child.

We exist in a society where providing great, loving, compassionate care is becoming a rarity.

We, as healthcare workers, hold the power to impact our patients and their loved ones in a profound way. We have the choice, with each and every encounter, to decide what we are going to embody: and I choose love. There may indeed be days where we are stressed, where we are under-staffed, and where we are doing the dirty work.

However: this is never the fault of the patient. We entered this profession knowing we are going to work long hours, knowing we are going to work holidays, knowing there may be days when we must put our personal needs behind those of our patients.

If there is ever a choice between taking my lunch break on time or providing comfort measures to another human life in distress – I will always choose the patient.

I am calling out to every one of my fellow healthcare workers to reflect upon your journey into this remarkable field, and to always choose to love.

As John Wesley once said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can.

In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” May we all remember this and embody it to every patient we encounter, as often as we possibly can.

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