My father loved nurses. And in the last few years of his life, going in and out of the hospital, he knew many nurses. But what he seemed to care most about was whether his nurse was friendly or not. “That’s great, Dad.” I’d say. “I’m glad you like your nurses. But it’s just as important that your nurses are competent in evaluating and meeting your nursing needs and preventing and recognizing complications during your stay.”
This was never as crucial as after Dad suffered a stroke which left him with weakness on his right side and difficulty swallowing and speaking. His nurses coordinated his rehabilitation with physical therapy and the speech therapist. The nursing staff prevented skin breakdown by turning and positioning him in bed and keeping him clean and dry. The nurses recognized when his blood sugar dropped and took action to correct the problem. They watched for signs and symptoms of pneumonia that might occur if he aspirated his food. They helped Dad learn to feed himself again. They supported our family as we sat feeling helpless. Here are some other times in my life when I or a member of my family needed a good bedside nurse:
I am 16 and scheduled for an appendectomy. This is my first experience of being really sick. I am scared because I don’t know what to expect. I need a bedside nurse to educate me about what will happen and reassure me they will be there to take care of me.
I am lying in a hospital bed for six weeks after surgery to repair a broken femur. I am in pain. I need a bedside nurse to assess my pain and take action to relieve it.
I just had my first baby. My milk has come in. I read all the books about breastfeeding, but doing it for the first time is so much harder than reading about it. Every time I put my baby to my breast, my other breast leaks milk. I soak through all my nightgowns. I just want to cry. I need a bedside nurse to teach me how to breastfeed.
My mother is dying from colon cancer. She needs a bedside nurse who knows end of life care.
My cousin is in the ICU after a heart valve repair. She needs a bedside nurse who knows how to sustain her vital signs and regulate the medications to keep her alive until some of the machines and tubes can be safely taken away.
These are just some of the situations when my family and I needed a bedside nurse. How about you? Do you know how important it is to have a competent bedside nurse to coordinate your care, teach you what you need to know about your care or condition, prevent and manage complications from your treatment or illness, provide care you can not perform yourself, listen and give emotional support or save your life when something goes radically wrong?