Thursday, June 15, 2017


It's easy to write about the times I felt good as a nurse, or did things easily, or was smart and caught some little detail that helped me better care for a patient. It's much more difficult to write about my failures.

This wasn't even a big mistake, just an offhanded comment that I've been ruminating over for weeks now.

Recently I had a kiddo with appendicitis who was being transferred to the pediatric hospital down the road. It was a ridiculously straightforward case: kid with zero medical history had no appetite for a day and then started with nausea and classic RLQ pain, parents brought him in for a workup, CT showed an appy and we started antibiotics and the transfer process. He was a typical young kid - old enough to know what was happening, but young enough to be terrified by it. About twenty minutes before transfer, he started to cry a bit.

What I should have done was sat down next to the kid and told him it was okay to be scared, that it was okay to cry. I should have validated his feelings and told him that yes, surgery is scary and doctors in masks can be scary and that this whole thing is scary - even me, trying to be comforting, can be scary.

I didn't.

Instead, I told him that it's okay, he doesn't need to be scared, that we're going to take great care of him and everything would be fine.

I can't make that promise - what if everything is not fine? I'll take care of him to the best of my ability, but he might still hurt. I'm not scared by hospitals, but he damn sure was. I told him the classic caregiver lie - with the best intentions and hopefully true, but not at all what a nine year old needs to hear.

I messed up.


M. Tula Fitzgerald said...

Thirty years an RN and yes, I did this too. Some times ya' just run outta gas. I'm retired three years now. My last patients were soldiers all grown up. Well when someone is hurting they are all nine years old and yes once or so I ran outta gas. Still over 30 years I think I did ok. You will have too.

Old FoolRN said...

My gas gauge was on "E" too after the 20 year mark in nursing. One cohort of patients I learned not to sweet talk were those that verbalized impending death. They were always right.

Anonymous said...

Forgive yourself. But remember for next time. You've got this.