Beep…Beep…BEEP! The alarm on the IV pump next to me seemed to be getting louder as it went on. Maybe it was because it was the middle of the night, maybe it was because it was the third time that day, or maybe it was because I was just on the verge of getting some good rest. Turning over to my side, I reluctantly reached to press the call button. Before I could get to it though, my nurse cracked the door and came inside.
Terri quieted the machine, changed the bag, and asked if she could get me anything. I declined politely and she said something along the lines of, “I would feel better if you asked for one thing at least!” (In her sweet, pleasant voice, of course). Terri was my favorite nurse during my weeklong stay as an inpatient at the hospital. When I was desperate, pathetic and weak, she was eager to bring me whatever I needed. No matter what time of night she came in, she was always cheerful and always selfless. She was so good at understanding her patients’ positions, that often she realized what I needed even before I thought of it myself.
One night, at shift change, a new nurse walked in the room. I was discouraged, only to find out that Terri had gotten a flat tire and was on her way. When I have car trouble, it ruins my mood, but when Terri walked in, she apologized with a smile and a laugh, carrying on just the same. She never acted aggravated, tired or upset, even when she had full justification. She went out of her way to minimize needle sticks and schedule my care the most convenient way. She was especially considerate of me when I slept, and kept the room quiet and lights low. She even got my mother sheets and blankets so she could stay with me on a makeshift chair-bed.
The list could go on and on, but the most important aspect of Terri’s care was her attitude. I know she had hard patients, with many needs and negative dispositions. Just being on the night shift itself can be rough I am sure, but her demeanor never wavered. When I become a physician, I hope to reflect Terri’s gift of generously caring for her patients. She encompassed all that I already hoped to display as a doctor one day, and made me reflect on new ways to be compassionate. She is the symbol of the bedside manner that I dream of achieving. I learned so many things being an inpatient for the first time, but what Terri taught me is something so simple, yet exceptionally valuable.
Nurse’s name was changed to protect privacy.
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville