As an oncology nurse on an inpatient unit, working weekends is something that is just part of your schedule. Sometimes working the off hours is a time to take a minute and breathe, and other times you can barely keep up. The halls of the unit may be quieter, but the level of illness of patients doesn’t change based on the time or the day of week.
I recently worked a weekend and I thought that it was going to be a good shift. Not long after that, I realized that I had made a mistake in transcribing the type and screen blood transfusion information of a patient. The error was caught, but as you know making a mistake can leave any nurse doubting herself and her practice. The day just seemed to go downhill from there. I had an emergency situation resulting with a patient requiring intubation after a seizure. I found myself trying to catch up and administer medications, complete assessments, and transfuse the five blood products that needed to be given.
One of my patients that I was caring for, Ed, has been in the hospital for over 40 days. He is waiting for count recovery of his bone marrow. I cared for him about 3 weeks prior, and he was very talkative then and often walking in the halls. I noticed on this particular day, Ed didn’t want to get up out of the bed, sit in a chair, or have his blinds lifted. The highlight of the day for him was meal time, and he became frustrated when his meal tray didn’t have what he’d requested.
Around an hour before the shift was over, I stopped in Ed’s room with a wheelchair and said that I would take him downstairs to get something to eat. Needless to say, I was tired, but I just couldn’t leave that day without trying to make Ed feel better.
When he heard that I was going to take him downstairs he was elated. He jumped up and started listing everything that he wanted to eat. So off we went. As we got downstairs, I asked, “How about we take a trip outside?” He was thrilled. He had not been outside the entire time he was hospitalized.
We went outside, and it was cool with a nice breeze. He kept saying, “This is wonderful,” and “It feels so good.” We sat for a while, he munched on some snacks from the gift shop, and we talked about our favorite foods, his family, and some of his life choices. Before going back in, I pushed him up the street and he began singing the Eye of the Tiger—that song from Rocky—with his arms outstretched, face up to the sun, relishing in the fresh air.
Nursing theorist, Jean Watson, RN, PhD, FAAN, once said, “Caring is the essence of nursing.” As we move into the fast-paced era of increasing technology, innovative treatments, and electronic medical documenting, we should remember that small tokens of understanding and little acts of kindness are really what makes nursing such a privilege. As Ed felt empowered that day, I realized it wasn’t just a good shift—it was a great one!