We live in a world that can be very scary and violent. Two days ago a 19-year old (expelled) student from Parkland, Florida went into his old high school with an assault rifle and killed 17 people (students and teachers), injuring many others. Their lives all cut short in an instant. Their friends and families will never be the same; for them, Valentine’s Day will always be remembered with pain and violence. Those of you who know me, know how I feel about gun control, however, without getting into politics, whether you support the right (for anyone, sane or insane) to bear arms, or not, this is wrong. The fact that it happened in a school makes it even more tragic and senseless. Nothing seems sacred anymore… not churches, schools, movie theaters, or even hospitals. Violence against healthcare professionals is a growing problem also. Nurses are victims of violence, or threats of violence, from patients/families, colleagues, and even those whom we trust to protect us, as we saw last year with Utah nurse, Alex Wubbels, who was aggressively treated and handcuffed by a police officer for following hospital policy, when she said that she could not get the blood sample from a patient without a warrant or consent (Manson, 2017). She was later awarded $500,000 in a settlement, and she promised to make a donation to help spearhead the #EndNurseAbuse campaign by the American Nurses Association (Manson, 2017).
When you work in the world of pediatrics, the parents/family become an extension of the patient; they are treated as a unit, and rightfully so. Healthcare recommendations for patient- and family- centered care in Children’s Hospitals is considered best practice. If a child is admitted to the hospital, whether it is short-term, or an extended stay due to a serious/chronic illness, the entire family is affected. Nurses must also be able to respond to individual family needs and dynamics, which vary from patient to patient. Most parents are appreciative of the care that we provide; they see that we are on the same “team” to care for their child, and help them through a difficult time. Some… not so much. Some parents are angry that their child is suffering, or have been diagnosed with a serious condition. They are upset that their world has been turned upside down; they have to miss work, make arrangements to see who can take care of their other children at home, who still need to go to school and soccer practice…because life goes on, and time stops for no one. This is where it can be challenging to do our job. If something goes wrong, the nurses are often blamed. We are at the bedside and visible; we are the most convenient targets for misguided anger and aggression. And that’s ok…we get it; we understand the frustrations of having to wait for things that seem urgent. Nevertheless, it’s not ok if we are/feel verbally or physically threatened. Most of us did not get into nursing because we crave danger; we did it to help people. Now, we must prepare for active shooter events, and we pray that it never happens to us. At some point, patient satisfaction becomes a gray area when it comes to realistically and appropriately addressing this issue regarding employee safety. So many of those who aggressively threaten us are gently chided, while leadership teams meet to discuss strategies to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations. When is enough, enough?
This weekend alone I was faced with two very demanding family issues that challenged me as a nurse leader. We had a mother who was having a difficult time coping with her child’s illness; she was also sleep-deprived, and not able to effectively communicate the subtle changes in her daughter’s condition that eventually required further intervention. Her behavior was erratic, and we were concerned. She needed help, but so did her child. We are nurses; we took care of both.
I was also faced with another parent who is very angry, and having a difficult time accepting her loss of control and power. Instead, she attempts to use her anger to control staff, and lash out at anyone standing in her way. We are nurses; we take care of her too. Sometimes it is very hard to see beneath the behavior, to identify the reason for the behavior. But we try.
I have been hearing the song from The Killers, which is featured in the Samsung Mobile commercial (2018), with the chorus “I’ve got a soul, but I’m not a soldier” a lot lately because it is being broadcast during the Olympics. It reminds me about the power of hope and resilience. It reminds me of the patients that we care for, and the reason that I wanted to become a nurse. The chant speaks to me…I’m just trying to do my best. “The world may teach us “can’t”, but we are all born to do what can’t be done” (Samsung, 2018). One must have heart and soul to be a nurse, but we must also find the fight within ourselves to get through the difficult times, and do it again the next day.
Manson, P. (2017). Utah nurse reaches settlement. Retrieved from https://www.sltrib.com/utah-nurse-arrested-for-blocking-cop-from-drawing-blood-from-patient
Samsung Mobile: Human Nature. (2018). [Commercial]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/KIMBR5ZMEvo