Marilyn just returned from 10 days in the hospital with an intestinal blockage. My appreciation of health professionals increased tremendously. Since both a son, Liam, and his wife, Marcie, are nurses, you would think I would have known how important their work is but I guess you never really appreciate it until you experience it directly. Marilyn spent a day and a half in the Emergency Center at Unity Hospital because the hospital was full. We went to emergency on probably the worst possible day: Monday (always the busiest day) after an extended holiday weekend. Because of the popular television show, we tend to refer to an “Emergency Room.” Nothing could be further from the truth; Emergency Department is a much better descriptor. There were patients everywhere in various stages of acuteness with people and equipment constantly working. While we were in emergency, they had to deal with a “Code Blue” in the emergency lobby. That was attended to with speed and calmness in the midst of caring for the 50 or so patients that were in various rooms, hall locations on gurneys, and sitting waiting for treatment. I was simply amazed at all this especially when I realized that it goes on 24/7 365 days a year, year in and year out.
Once a room was available, she went to a general medical floor and spent the next several days with a naso-gastric tube hooked up to a pump. The blockage cleared and she was discharged after ten days. The nursing staff, the various doctors, care assistants, technicians, building service staff, food staff, etc. were exemplary in their care and concern. No one ever left her room without asking if there was anything they could do for her…and the they meant it genuinely. As one nurse put it, our job is to do everything we can so that our patients can move beyond the basic needs of Maslow’s hierarchy. We are blessed that so many talented and energetic people want to do this work. Beyond whatever financial benefits are available, they want to care for people. When we are sick, we need that care more than ever. There was no task that they would not undertake to help patients feel safe, cared for, and valued.
We were also struck by the cultural diversity of the medical and nursing staff. We were on the floor over a long enough period of time that we got to know many of the nurses and care assistants. These are ordinary people with all the challenges and joys of ordinary life. They just care and have found a profession in which they can express that value to those in great need. Whether we fully appreciate it or not, we are the beneficiaries of their values and commitments.