Above and Beyond

How many times do we hear that phrase “above and beyond?”

ALL. THE. TIME.

I hear it in award speeches, I hear it in those cheesy AIDET classes we have to take, I even hear it in interviews.

“Describe a time you went ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty for your patient?”

What is your above and beyond?

My dad died from lung cancer on June 2nd 2019. He had a long 129 days from diagnosis until his death. He spent most of his time in and out of hospitals.

My dad was a pretty gruff guy. He wasn’t one to show much appreciation or affection. He really avoided the doctor at all costs prior to those final months.

His first hospital stay was following a failed attempt to remove a 4 inch tumor from his right lung. It didn’t work. They sewed him back up.

His second hospital stay was following a fracture of his C2 vertebrae. He was leaning back in his recliner. He spent a week in the hospital.

His third and fourth hospital stays were a week long each. We thought he had radiation pneumonitis. He didn’t. He was dying. We didn’t know yet.

Throughout the hospital stays, my parents had picked out their favorite nurses.

Lauren was my dad’s nurse when he broke his neck. Dad was on the medical oncology floor which was a really busy floor. Lauren’s phone was constantly ringing. I knew she had her hands full. Yet all I heard about was how smart Lauren was. I was so excited to meet her because I’d heard such high praises.

I spent two days with my dad in the hospital. I met Lauren. Don’t get me wrong, Lauren was a fine nurse but she didn’t have the superpowers my mom and dad had described. In their eyes, she was “above and beyond.” My mom went as far as to write a letter to make sure she was recognized for her efforts.

Do you know what Lauren did?

Lauren listened. She sat down, she talked to dad, and she actually listened. More than that, before she responded, she thought.

Dad always commented on that. He said he could “see her wheels turning.”

When the strongest pain medications weren’t touching his pain, she listened. She sat down, talked to dad, and she actually listened.

When he had concerns about his new feeding tube, she listened.

Lauren worked on a busy floor. Lauren wasn’t always on time with her medications and assessments. She was already preforgiven because Dad knew whens she got to him, she would listen.

That’s it guys. That’s the BIG SECRET to getting all those fancy nursing recognition awards: LISTENING.

I have bent over backwards and sideways four ways to Sunday for patients.

I have bought people the giant packs of depends, I’ve paid for people’s taxi’s, I gave a patient a ride home or to their hotel on several occasions. I have literally saved lives. I went and bought a family member of a dying resident cheese curds after work and brought them back to her. I went in on my day off to be with an old man with no family so he wouldn’t die alone.

All of these grand gestures may get me into heaven one day but do I listen to my patients?

  • Do I make sure they feel like more than just a task I need to complete?
  • Do I see beyond the tubes and wires and remember they are a human?
  • Do I sit down on their bed and look them in the eye?
  • Am I listening to respond or am I listening to understand?

In a world of screens and monitors and technology I challenge you to disconnect and reconnect.

In closing, my fellow nursing friends, I challenge you to rethink your above and beyond.

4 thoughts on “Above and Beyond

  1. Susan the Farm Quilter says:

    I worked for 6 months as a CNA in the nursing home in my little town. The best part was working 10 PM to 7 AM, even though there were only 2 CNAs or 1 RN and 1 CNA, was the time I got to spend one-on-one with the residents. Spending 20 minutes taking one to the bathroom and talking with her. Spending 30 minutes to get one of the gentlemen up and ready for the day just to have him tell me that I gave him the best shave he had gotten since he came to the nursing home. Back rubs, special oils, fixing hair when there really wasn’t much left…all gave me the opportunity to get to know them a little better as a person so I could better care for them or just allow them to feel as though they had value. A bit different from when I was teaching, but the personal connection with them both is what counts for me!

  2. Joni says:

    As an CCR nurse, you must listen to the patient as well as their family members. Give them your time and you will have a better outcome. If you can pass those important nuances off to the next nurse caring for the patient, everyone wins. The simple gestures create the largest reward. Beautiful post.

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