A Paean to Nurses
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 • 12:33pm
Suddenly I am awake – surrounded by strangers, highly agitated, and frightened – Where am I? The smiling face of a thin Asian man is inches from mine and peering at me but I can’t understand what he is saying. Thoughts of Vietnam cascade in my head. Was I captured? Why am I having problems breathing? With my head twisting from side to side, feeling terribly agitated and not seeing straight, all of a sudden I notice another person standing beside me. Even in bulky scrubs I can tell this is a woman. Her face is covered by a surgical mask but an unmistakable shock of blonde hair cascades out of her cap. My single thought is “saved.” She is the sole reassuring presence in my surroundings. I grab her hand, squeeze it as tightly as I can and through dry lips and a parched throat say “Hold my hand. Don’t let me go!” She squeezes my hand and calmly responds, saying, “I’m here. I won’t let you go.”
In a few minutes the panic passed as I awoke from anesthesia; I realized I was in a recovery room; I recalled I had just come out of back surgery and remembered the Asian man was my anesthesiologist. But I continued to hold that woman’s hand for dear life until I was fully awake. After that kind of experience you feel a special bond with the person who was literally your lifeline. So I told her my life story; she told me hers and we passed the obligatory recovery time until a hospital room became available.
The woman who graciously held my hand and guided me back to consciousness was a nurse. My once-in-a-lifetime experience recovering from surgery is a normal day’s work for people like her. Yet when people brag about their medical caregivers they rarely mention the fantastic nursing they received.
I have to admit I am partial to nurses. My mother was a nurse and it was one of the defining experiences of her life. A picture of her as a probationary nursing school candidate, in a starched striped gown and white apron, occupies an honored place in my home. I recall the post-card size RN Magazines that came to our house monthly and remember her being so happy when she could wear a nylon uniform to work in place of the starched cotton nurse’s dress and then how liberated she felt when she could wear pants. But my mother always wore white to work, accessorized with her unique Bellevue Nursing School cap, pin and nurse’s watch.
Today nurses dress very differently than they did in my mother’s day. Scrubs have replaced starched white dresses and you seldom see a nurse wearing a cap and pin. But under the clothes they have the same professional commitment. While my mother-in-law was in the hospital for an extended stay I would sometimes sit with her late into the night. When all but the nursing staff had gone home and a patient had an emergency, the nurses would huddle around the bed, working quietly and intensely on the patient. Often the crisis had passed and the nurses had resumed their regular duties by the time anyone else arrived.
Hospital nursing is a high-intensity business that requires people who are physically and intellectually on their best game. It’s said that doctors treat disease while nurses treat patients. One, without the other, would diminish care for sick or injured people. It’s too bad that the highly trained professionals who are nurses don’t get the kind of respect and recognition they deserve.
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Henry Bassman has lived in Summit, NJ for 37 years, has been married for more than 40 years and has three daughters who graduated from Summit High School. Henry was a Captain in the U.S. Army, retired from AT&T where he wrote about high-technology science and engineering and is now affiliated with a small investment bank that specializes in biotechnology, medical devices and healthcare issues, about which he often writes. Articles by Henry can be seen on ABCNews.com and other business Web sites. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Henry Bassman has written about high-technology and medical technology (biotechnology, medical devices and healthcare issues) for more than 40 years. He retired from AT&T, served in the U.S. Army where he became a captain and worked for ABC News. He is now affiliated with a small investment bank. Articles by Henry can be seen on ABCNews.com and other business Web sites. Henry has lived in Summit, NJ for 37 years and has been married for more than 40 years. He has three daughters who graduated from Summit High School.
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