Read an Excerpt
Get out your hanky before reading Nurses In Your Home. You'll need it. Since the advent of home health care, many of us have seen family and friends taken care of by those ubiquitous nurses who come to visit homes and care for their patients. Very few of us, however, know much about what goes through the minds of this wonderful cadre of specialized nurses who devote their lives to the care of others.
Betty Bain spent most of her nursing career in Home Health nursing. About fifteen years ago, she was moved to write a short piece dedicated to the Home Health nurses. It has been seen by many people on the internet and is one of the stories contained in the anthology Around The Bend by her husband, Darrell Bain.
Recently, while remodeling their office, Betty ran across an accompanying piece she wrote which has never seen publication. Her first article was devoted entirely to the nurses and their furious, laughable, dedicated and peripatetic lifestyle as they make the rounds caring for their patients. The unpublished piece went the opposite direction: it told about the patients and how they affected the nurses.
Now, for the first time, both these heart warming articles are presented together under the title NURSES IN YOUR HOME.
If you can get through both these pieces without shedding some tears you must be the most unfeeling wretch ever born.
Home health nurses are found on crowded freeways muttering imprecations to traffic gods, renewing their souls on quiet country roads, waiting impatiently at the fast food drive-thru, hubcap deep in unexpected mudholes, detouring around endless construction and almost always smiling in anticipation of their next patient visit.
Their patients love them, their families miss them, their co-workers understand them, patients' families are grateful to them and like the postman, the weather does not stop them.
Key map on the seat, patient home directions in one hand, a Big Mac in the other, Coke clutched between their knees, radio blasting, notes and paperwork slipping and sliding to the floor, grinning happily, they are queen (or king) of the road.
They like people--patients in particular, good weather, understanding spouses, good directions (bless those who know where they live and how to get there), children, cokes, co-workers, a meal cooked by someone else, coffee, a secretary who remembers their birthday, cookies, praise from their superiors and a pat on the back for a job well done.
They come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Each intends to lose ten pounds next month, stay within their budget, get all their paperwork completed today and accomplish ten other miracles before quitting time.
They don't care much for torn-up roads and freeways, other drivers doing dumb things, greasy fast foods (well, most of the time), being on call, scary neighborhoods, the endless stack of paperwork, being on call, unfeeling government regulations, state surveys, schedule changes as they go out the door, being on call, the telephone, being paged while stuck in unmoving traffic and being on call.
They get satisfaction from the smile of the very ill, the look of gratitude from an overwhelmed family member, understanding from a colleague, praise from a supervisor, catching the green light just before it turns red and getting home in time to see their son hit a homerun during his little league game.
Why do they come in early and stay late? Do shopping for the homebound patient on their own time and occasionally with their own money? How can they grit their teeth and plunge into the bottomless chug hole? How do they drive in rain, snow, sleet, floods and hurricanes with optimism they will reach their goal? How do they boost the morale of new stroke patients who can no longer care for themselves? How do they teach about diabetes for the millionth time? How do they face the innumerable dirty dressing changes? Why do they feel responsible for things way beyond their control or help? How do they attend funerals and comfort the survivors? God knows it's not the hours, work load, money or the endless series of promises of health care changes.
Why? Possibly, knowing that what they do makes a difference or things easier. Possibly, the words of heartfelt praise from a patient or family member. Or perhaps, the love, the gratitude, the appreciation, the devotion and the satisfaction heard in the smiling statement, "MY NURSE IS HERE!".
We come into your life during traumatic, difficult and trying times. Usually there has been a dramatic change in your health status with a resulting change in your life style.
So there we stand at your door, nursing bag clutched in one hand, a raft of papers in the other and an encouraging smile on our face---and you open your door and your home and lives to us.
There's a number of words to describe what will be in your future. Determination is the first one that comes to mind for Home Care patients. Determination to overcome the calamities that have befallen you. Determination to triumph over the disabilities you never thought would come your way. Determination to get past this new obstacle on the increasingly precarious path you've trod.
The next word would be work. Hard, hard work as you learn about new medications-names, dosages, side effects and multiple other things you never cared to know about medicines before. Work to learn how to get through a dirty, smelly dressing change when you feel like you have four thumbs and two toes on each hand. Work as you learn about diseases you can't spell or pronounce. Work with weird looking and strange sounding machines you're convinced will stop functioning the moment the nurse drives away.
Another word would have to be faith; faith that you can learn all the unfamiliar stuff the nurse is talking about that's happening to you . Faith that when we say, yes there's progress, that we're right and not just trying to prop your spirits up. Faith to get from minute to minute, hour to hour and day to day during the course of your disease. And yes, faith even when we don't have all the answers you long to hear.
How we admire your fortitude and resolution as you face some very grim realities. We learn that each of you copes in different ways and work to your own resolution. How we admire your spouses, your families and your care persons as they, too, learn change and as they supply support systems to help you cope.
We nurses learn from you. Sometimes nurses think they know all the answers and are surprised and even shocked when your answer is different-but right. We learn compassion, sympathy, love, understanding, courage, bravery, acceptance, empathy and honesty from you. What we don't learn from you is self-pity, whining, apathy and whimpering-not to deny these feelings may be present but mostly you simply don't have time for them in your whirlwind of productive activity.
We admire you. Oh, how we admire you! You sneak past all our self-protective barriers and into our minds and hearts. Like Ms. Retired (never former) teacher greeting us with cheer, smiles and jokes each visit as we steadily increase her medication for intractable cancer pain. Baby C., a tiny, puny premie whose tenacious, fragile clutching fingers winds her whole little body around all the strands of our hearts. Mr. H., diagnosed with AIDS and fighting tooth and nail to retain his job, his dignity, his home and his life while undergoing complex and sometimes unpleasant treatment.
We are humbled by the small amount we contribute in comparison to the huge amount we receive in return during the course of our rounds. Thanks for receiving us into your homes and into your hearts. May our services make as much difference in your lives as you do in ours.
Copyright © 2007 Betty Bain, R.N.