Saturday, March 14, 2009


Take the patient who is post-operative gastric bypass, Amelia. Normally, at the hospital where she had surgery, patients stabilize in the surgery suite and then are transferred to their respective room. Because of patient overflow Amelia had to wait in the surgical suite for six hours prior to being transferred. When the technician came to transfer her, he brought what turned out to be a broken bed. He reassured her that the matter would be resolved upon admission to the unit where she would convalesce. Upon arrival the technician gave report to the admitting nurse, and included the fact about the bed being broken. The nurse reassured Amelia that she would have her in a working bed in no time.

The problem here was the head of the bed could not be raised. Amelia had just undergone abdominal surgery and lying in supine position is uncomfortable to a patient with surgical wounds in her abdomen. Initially, Amelia was appeased by the nurse’s reassurance, but as the hours passed by she, in her discomfort, kept asking anyone who came into her room when she would be given a new bed.

At the time of her surgery Amelia weighed in at 270 pounds. She was a very large woman, and that is what the nurses and technicians saw. No one wanted to be the one to lift her onto a new bed. She had even overheard one of the nurse aids tell another aid that she was not going to be the one to lift Amelia.

It was upon shift change, when her new nurse came in to introduce herself that Amelia was finally comforted. It was as if she had been placed on a whole different unit or in a new hospital. The outgoing nursing personnel had treated her with little concern for her comfort or dignity, while she rested uncomfortably in a broken bed. They did not respect her as a person. Their concern was for their own welfare. In particular, the aid that refused to move Amelia must place higher priority on values other than altruism and human dignity. Ironically, when she was finally given a new bed, after eleven hours of waiting, Amelia independently maneuvered herself out of the broken bed and into the bed she rested in comfortably for the remainder of her stay. She was not bedridden necessitating any assistance other than being observed for weakness or syncope.

The above excerpt is from a paper I wrote last semester from the assignment defining values and/or ethical principles paramount to the profession of nursing. Altruism, human dignity and respect are some of the values and/or ethical principles I find integral to nursing as a profession. Over the years I've often found that a person who is really good at their job started out subordinate to what they've become. Take for instance the doctor who was once a nurse, or in the military, the officer who was once enlisted, or even the CEO who once worked in the mailroom. I analogize this to what I can imagine it sometimes takes to be a good nurse is to remember how it feels to be the patient. Sometimes it's just working with a sympathetic/empathetic frame of mind.

You might have figured out by now that I fictionalized my paper, that Amelia is in fact, me. Yes, three years ago I had gastric bypass surgery. Other than switching the name the rest of what you've read above is very much non-fiction, very true to life. You would be horrified to learn where I had my surgery after reading about my surgery considering I had it done at a major university in the Washington, DC area.

I don't share that I had surgery with many people anymore, although I guess now it's out there in the wide open world of the 'net! I wasn't one of the ones who dropped to goal or even near it within six months, or a year. In fact I still have a good 40 lbs. to go to get to my "ideal" weight. I did lose 80 lbs. that first year and a few since. I've battled internally and emotionally with this and have finally come around to the fact that the surgery did give me back a sense of confidence that had been washed away. I take full responsibility for not losing more. I haven't exercised religiously, but did maintain a moderate level of activity. That's what needs to happen, a regular exercise routine, especially considering the loss of tone/excess skin issues. I'm in touch with that fact, but also the reality that if I'm going to do it it is going to have to >fit in< somewhere-no more excuses!

All that being said the main point in me posting this today was my feelings on me becoming a good nurse. The following is another excerpt from the paper on "Amelia."

People are multi-faceted. People are also quick to judge. In nursing it is imperative to use critical thinking, and to not pass judgment on other people. Every person deserves to be treated equally and with dignity. Each person should be regarded holistically, whether they are clients, or other health care personnel. One should always remember that other person is someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, etc., and how one would want their own family members treated.

March 25th I begin my clinical rotation and know there will be good times as well as some rough times. There may even be times when I want to give up. There will be others reassuring me this is what I'm meant to do. Whenever I become frustrated I just hope to remember Amelia.