It is late in the afternoon, and it has been an extraordinarily busy shift. My fatigue, along with that of my colleagues, is compounded by our worry for a much-loved coworker out on unexpected medical leave, our worth-her -weight-in-gold unit secretary is out on a planned medical leave, and if all that isn’t enough, an important and well respected physician in our oncology community died suddenly in an accident. We received the news this morning. It is a horrible, no good, very bad day. And it is so busy, we can’t take time out to give one another a hug. You can see the tears we hold back in our eyes.
He is my last patient of the day. He needs a a blood test today, then he’ll return to the clinic tomorrow for his treatment. He tells me he feels horrible, no good, very bad today. He asks me if he can stay and begin his treatment this afternoon. I look at the clock. To honor his request means I will stay at least an hour over time. He may have seen me wince, or maybe I sighed, because I know I am going to do what he asks. A worried expression crosses his tired face, and he looks around the unit at the other patients. “It’s very busy here today? Lots of sick patients? You are tired?”
My heart was touched.
“Yes, we have many patients and they are very sick today, but you are sick too, and it’s my job to take care of you. I will start your treatment this afternoon. You need it.”
He smiles with what little energy he has. He holds my hand and says, “When you professional, sometimes you suffer.”
I squeeze his hand and walk away to send his blood to the lab, before he can see me cry.
I miss my doctor. and i know the stress and have seen your tears. i appriciate that you and all my nurses are only human too.
One of the important lessons I’ve learned is no matter what role any of us plays in the health care system, we share the common denominator of our humanity.
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