Slow ≠ Useless

A little lesson of empowerment.

I remember on our first day of PN class, the teacher asked us to summarize “nursing” in one word.  Man, what do I know of this profession, besides the hectic shifts, the lousy work hours, the difficult or sad cases.  One word popped into my mind; “Empowerment”.  At that point, I believed I was taking this course to “empower” myself, so I can better take care of my family and other patients.  Today, I had the chance to witness a different form of the word.

A patient had just returned from some procedure and was on high litres of O2, ½D;½NS via IV (2.5% Dextrose + 0.45% saline; 俗稱”哈哈水”; need to monitor for fluid overload as it is hypertonic and usually given at a rapid rate, this particular instance was Q6H). Many things were happening on the ward, the A (day) shift was reporting off to the P (evening) shift, last minute charting and procedures being done, and it was also visiting time, and everyone wanted to know their loved one’s condition.  Needless to say, the whole ward was abuzz with activity, everyone  was very purposefully preparing their upcoming shift.  Being a student, not experienced enough to participate and feeling as if I was in the way more than helpful, I stood by to see if there was anything I could assist in or information I could gleen. 

This patient’s relatives had arrived with a thermos flask of porridge and small snacks to visit, upon seeing the NPO (Nil by mouth) sign, approached the nurse to clarify.  The nurse reinforced that the patient was on O2, with IV solution and to not give any food, not even a drink of water or soup.  Just standing by, merely hoping to learn more about each patient, I detected the family member’s face fell, there was a sense of hopelessness.  The nurse, being very busy with many patients on hand and after answering the question, left.  The family member turned around and looked at the patient, who may once have been the breadwinner of this family, an icon of strength for the children, was now laying in a hospital bed, tangled with tubes here and there, voice raspy and dehydrated, asking for just a cup of water and there was nothing they could do.

I explained to the relative, that the patient was on high O2 and may feel difficulty breathing if we took the mask away, but that the IV solution contains little dextrose for calories and energy.  And if the patient felt too dry from the high litres of O2, they could apply vaseline or wet his mouth.  It felt common sense, a little dumb even.

But there was a sigh of relief, and she turned and relayed the information to the other family members.  She was grateful that I took the time to explain.  There was now SOMETHING they could do for their loved one.  They were reassured, hopeful, and empowered.


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