The heart of health care
May 6, 2020
As one can imagine, I had some pretty dark days while my dad spent a month in an ICU recovering from complications during heart surgery. It was a constant battle of ups and downs, with a lot of fear and uncertainty thrown in for good measure. My sisters and I spent days at his bedside willing him to get better. And every day we were there, nurses were our rocks. That’s not to take away anything from the doctors who also worked hard to save his life but the nurses? The nurses became like family.
There was the one who monitored him every second of the first critical 24 hours. Another figured out just the right mix of medicines to help him turn a corner. There was the young man who, after noticing a photo of my healthy dad, brought in a razor to shave his face to make him look more like he normally did. One held me while I cried. Others checked in even when they weren’t assigned to him. There were so many whose kindness and compassion filled our hearts and whose skill and determination gained our deep respect.
They filtered in and out of his room and our lives for a month. They learned our names and we learned theirs. We shared joy and laughter even in the scariest of times. We brought them candy and deep gratitude. They gave us hope and benevolence in return. They came in all manners of people — different ethnicities, religions, ages, genders. Yet, they all shared the powerful calling to be a nurse. For that month, they were our lifelines.
I think about them often lately. I fear for all they’re facing during this pandemic. I hope they are well. I know they are still caring for others with incredible competence and compassion.
Today is the beginning of National Nurses Week. It also happens to be the International Year of the Nurse. There has never been a better time to recognize the service they offer this world. Between my dad’s health journey and my own, I’ve run into a fair number of amazing nurses and a lot of them are proud Spartans. We put together a special MSUTODAY FEATURE: Spartan nurses care, to highlight just how awesome they are. Check it out and make sure to thank the nurses you know.
Spartan nurses are prepared for anything. Last year, nursing student Mackenzie Deslooever and a student from the College of Osteopathic Medicine traveled to the Dominican Republic during spring break to learn about their medical culture. Read their STUDENT VIEW: Learning medical culture in the Dominican Republic, to learn more about their experience.
Nurses also do important research. Like Jiying Ling, who recently answered some timely questions about the connection between stress and physical health in parents and their children, especially during a crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Read her Q&A: How stress affects parents, kids.
The other day I got a call from one of my nurses who monitors my heart condition. I have this cool remote monitoring system that allows them to get readings from my ICD without me doing anything other than being in the room with the system.
She called because she noticed an irregular rhythm in my monthly report that was different than my normal irregularity. With everything going on, added stress, less sleep and added worry — I wasn’t really surprised. I’m fine but as we chatted, I thought again how lucky I am to have the nurses I do. My regular nurse at the University of Michigan, Pat Sovitch, is a Spartan nurse who I would totally be friends with if we met somewhere else. She’s incredibly smart, but she also makes me feel like a person instead of a patient. She actually makes me look forward to my yearly appointment.
I would bet that pretty much everyone has a story of an outstanding nurse who has touched their life in some way. Whether you were the patient or someone you love was, somewhere out there is a nurse you should probably thank. If you need some inspiration, there are more stories about Spartan nurses on the College of Nursing website. I’ve previously thanked some of the other nurses in my life, but there is always room for more gratitude.
Find a way to recognize the nurses you know. Maybe even find some you don't and thank them too. They are true leaders, lifesavers and world-changers. Some say they are the heart of health care. My heart, wonky as it is, is filled with an immense appreciation for the work they do. It isn't easy work, but they don't back down. Spartan nurses help save the world, one patient at a time. #SpartansWill.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner