I met him at the time clock.
“How are you?”
“Great, now.” He smiled reaching for the barcode side of his badge to swipe out.
It was the end of our shifts. He worked the observation unit where patients stay in the hospital for less than 24 hours. He admitted 4, discharged 4, so had a total of 12 patients that shift. “Not that bad actually…” he reasoned. Usually it was more like 16 or 18 patients a shift with the rapid turnover, or thoroughput as the hospital administrators like to call it.
We walked into the elevator together lamenting the fact that we have degrees in nursing-which is a theory of practicing healthcare that is born out of service and caring for the whole person- but we are defacto medication technicians.
We pass meds, answer call lights, document idividualized plans of care, Braden scores, BMAT’s, NIH scales, head to toe physical assesments (that we’re basically filling in the blanks for cause we literally had 55 seconds in the room before being called out to talk to Dr. So and So), intake and output, vital signs (because we’re short on nursing assistants), Functional Independence Measurement scores (in perfect detail after noon and before the end of the shift because Medicare thinks we’re forecasting care if we capture it in a chart before noon. Newsflash Medicare: WE ARE FORECASTING. IT’S THE ONLY WAY THIS REQUIREMENT WILL GET DONE)… I could go on and on. But all the time we spend with our patients is mostly given to documentation and passing meds…. we barely get time to squeeze in a really good asessment, much less time to educate our patients, listen to them, and collaborate with others for their good.
We’re nurses, not medication aides. But at the end of a 12 hour shift of being interrupted every 55 seconds we cling to making sure our patients all got their medications and all the required charting is done as the evidence that we did something meaningful all day. And we hate it. We don’t want to just pass meds and chart. We want to nurse.
Nursing is not an assistant to practicing medicine. Nursing is a way of practicing healthcare. It’s wholistic. It listens. It touches. It serves. It cares. It instructs. It encourages. It finds resources. It researches. It collaborates. It leads. It values the image of God in people.
The healthcare delivery system in America, especially in hospitals, lays a heavy burden on nurses’ shoulders. But if we can see the value of what we’re doing and go to the person in that bed in need of a person to help them get better and go home, or die with dignity, we’ll drop the baggage of the U.S. healthcare system and become lightbearers.
At the end of a long day spent, I pray I can say my focus was the person, not the system.
I’m not a medication technician. I’m a nurse.