As I creep further along in this medical school program and start to spot the finish line, I have been reflecting a lot on this journey. I have sure experienced a ton and have gone through a lot of personal growth since packing up my bags and moving to the island almost four years ago! Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how thankful I am to have had my experience as a nurse behind me, helping to guide me and mould me into the best physician that I can be. I can confidently say that my experience as a nurse is definitely going to positively impact my practice as a doctor, and there are many reasons for it.
This reality really struck me the other day. I am currently doing an elective rotation in allergy and immunology at Cook County and Rush Hospital in Chicago. We were rounding on our patients with the team which consists of an attending, two fellows, three residents, and three students. We had to perform a pretty uncomfortable test on an older gentleman who had a ton going on with him. He was in pain, had been through a lot, and had tubes and machines attached to just about every part of his body. In order to perform the test we were doing, we needed him to be semi-sitting up which was a pretty uncomfortable position for him to be in. After the test was finished, his wife politely asked if he could be repositioned in a way to make him more comfortable. As I looked around the room I watched eight sets of eyes open wide, and then one of the fellows quickly said “we will get his nurse right away and have her get him comfortable, I’m really not sure how he is supposed to be positioned”. We left the room, and the fellow found his nurse and relayed the request. I saw the familiar “internal eye roll” that nurses give doctors when they are approached and given a task that seemingly anyone could perform. I didn’t even need to have a conversation with this nurse to know what was going through her head. “Nine perfectly capable people in white coats, and not one could just help reposition the man? Like I don’t have enough to do”. I was so odd to see this situation play out from the other end. How many times had I thought a doctor was lazy or didn’t care, when really they were just worried they might do something wrong?
This illustrates one of the biggest reasons my experience as a nurse will help me - I am going to be able to understand and relate to the nurses I work with really well. Having seen and done things from their point of view will really help me communicate well with them and anticipate how I’ll be able to help them and even how they’ll better be able to help me. Good nursing care for your patients is so paramount. Being able to work together with the nurse caring for your patients is the best way to ensure that they receive great care.
Nurses spend their entire day with their patients. They are there for it all. They see every up, down, twist and turn that is thrown at their patients during their hospital stay. Nurses really get a feel for what their patients go through. They understand what happens during painful tests and how patients react to getting certain medications. They can anticipate what their patients are going to need and when. It’s not just about “caring”. I feel that most people in the healthcare field are there because they care, but being at a patient’s side every step of the way teaches you HOW to care for people. Until the skill of how to care for others is learned, all the caring in the world doesn’t go very far. It’s about anticipating those needs and comforts, regardless how big or small they might be. If you’ve got a nurse in your life - a loved one, a family member, a friend, or even an acquaintance, be sure to give them a big hug and say thanks! Nurses are amazing and really do deserve all the gratitude in the world.