Did you know there was actually a call for nurses in the Revolutionary War?
I found this blurb on the Women in the U.S. Army website, which is also where I found this poster.
I’ll reproduce it here, I have no actual author to credit, but the reference is the link above:
“Shortly after establishment of the Continental Army on 14 June 1775, Major General Horatio Gates reported to Commander-in-Chief George Washington that “the sick suffered much for want of good female Nurses.” General Washington then asked Congress for “a matron to supervise the nurses, bedding, etc.,” and for nurses “to attend the sick and obey the matron’s orders.” In July 1775, a plan was submitted to the Second Continental Congress that provided one nurse for every ten patients and provided “that a matron be allotted to every hundred sick or wounded.’ “
Hey – they actually had patient ratios back then (“one nurse for every ten…”)! I guess we don’t “obey the Matron” anymore. Now the “Matron” is called Joint Commission!
The title of this post is in keeping with Dr. Rich’s Grand Rounds theme of “Independence Day”. Of course the first thing I wanted to do was put up a pic of Jeff Goldblum, but he meant the actual holiday!
So, a paraphrase of Patrick Henry’s famous statement inspired the following post.
It doesn’t take a bit of government intervention to implement.
That alone is amazing.
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
She’s in her mid thirties. First pregnancy, just found out she was expecting earlier in the week. Home pregnancy test; hasn’t even had time to make an appointment with her doctor.
Tonight she began spotting. Nothing major, but she knows something isn’t right. She is cramping. And she is shaking. Tearful. Her husband is at her side. He doesn’t know what to say, but he is worried. Asking a lot of questions.
What does she need?
She needs a nurse who can empathize with what she is going through. You see, we know that many, many pregnancies end in a miscarriage. We also know that you can have spotting early in pregnancy and still have a perfectly healthy pregnancy/baby. We know that if you are having a miscarriage, there is nothing in the world that will stop it.
But she doesn’t. She’s scared, she is bleeding, and will probably be grieving the loss of her baby within a few hours. She doesn’t need a nurse who rolls their eyes because she is “over-reacting”.
She needs empathy.
He is in his mid-twenties. He vomited once (or twice) and has abdominal pain. Feels like hell, is pale and pretty sure is he is about to vomit again. He called his mom to drive him into the ER.
Pretty dramatic presentation. Dizzy when upright, mom wheeled him in via wheelchair.
He’s scared. He’s uncomfortable and honestly thinks he may be dying, or at least on the verge of dehydration. All he wants is to stop vomiting and feel better.
We know that vomiting is self-limiting. We know this is most likely a viral gastroenteritis. We know he’s in no danger. We know his symptoms can easily be allieviated with medication.
But he doesn’t. He doesn’t even know the term “gastroenteritis”. He just knows that it feels like something is horribly wrong. He doesn’t need a nurse who rolls their eyes and silently calls him a “wimp”.
He needs empathy.
She’s in her mid-forties. She arrives in the middle of the night in sunglasses, holding her plastic garbage can in front of her face. Migraine. Three days. Vomiting. 24 hours. Photosensitive. Extreme.
She’s tired. Tired of being in pain. Tired of not being able to get on with life. She tried every one of her medications, more than once. Keeping them down is another story.
We know this is probably a typical migraine. We know that many people come in to the ER with the same complaint and are discharged after receiving some pretty heavy-duty drugs. We often see them many times in one month. We know the drill.
And so does she. She knows there will be some suspicion. She can hear it in the tone, she can see it in the face of the nurse who takes down her triage information. What she doesn’t need is someone who doesn’t believe her pain is a 10/10 and rolls their eyes because she is allergic to Toradol and Phenergan.
She needs empathy.
Empathy is at the heart of our profession.
As in synonymous with “caring”. It’s what we do. It’s what we have to offer as nurses. We give of ourselves so that others can feel better. In the ER specifically, we work quickly to get them as comfortable as possible.
But we absolutely must have empathy. The opposite? Apathy.
And apathy is just another word for nothing left to feel.
God help us if we get to that point in our practice.
God help our patients when we get to that point in our practice.
They expect medical care from their doctors.
They need empathy and caring from their nurse.
It’s what we do.