My nursing director called me recently at home, and instantly I thought that I was in some sort of trouble. What she proceeded to tell me, however, was really touching and quite humbling.
My director told me that she had been attending a meeting recently and she had a conversation with our Chief Nursing Officer (CNO). The CNO said that her husband’s co-worker had been admitted to our oncology floor around Thanksgiving and had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This gentleman, who I’ll call Mr. J, is middle-aged and was obviously very troubled to learn that there was a chance that he could die... soon.
Mr. J had relayed to the CNO that while he was on the oncology floor he had been very depressed and angry about his recent diagnosis. For the majority of the time that he was there, he didn’t interact much with anyone and was pretty much closed off to the staff.
Keep in mind -- I still had no idea why my nursing director was telling me this story.
Well, my nursing director continued to tell me that while Mr. J was on our floor, I had taken care of him and a conversation that I had with him had “changed his life.” I still don’t remember what our conversation was about, but Mr. J had specifically mentioned my name and said that I had pulled up a chair and told him that regardless of what his diagnosis was, he needed to make the best effort to view this as an opportunity to shift his priorities. Apparently, I said to him that this could be a chance to take some risks and live fearlessly, even while being treated.
Mr. J is currently receiving treatment and it appears that some of his tumors are actually decreasing in size. More importantly, he said that the conversation we had helped him to view his predicament differently, and to view life more fully.
At this point, it must sound as if I am tooting my own horn, but I only share this story with this community to remind everyone that each one of us who works in this field is a bearer of hope. Although some days we are there to cry with our patients, and grieve with them and their families, our most important role is to be bearers of hope.
As I mentioned earlier, this was a truly humbling thing for me to hear. And I have to admit the reason why it is so humbling is that I really have a difficult time recalling Mr. J. I don’t remember the conversation as vividly as he does, but I have a little bit more confidence knowing that what I say to my patients matters.