Science & Medicine

Arch’s Corner — October, 2012

On bedside nursing…

Some people are born perceptive, some develop a talent for knowing what not to post and some have good sense thrust upon them.  I didn’t make the cut as you will see if you read on.

Those of us who post to MPNforum Magazine often tell of our experiences and do not necessarily extrapolate them as truth or even relevance for our fellow subscribers. I’ll tell you now about something I learned during the ‘anno horribilis’ that followed my quadruple bypass. Some of you won’t agree.

That year 2008-9 did not go well for me.  Perhaps the complications occurred because I was old, diabetic and hadn’t kept to an obsessively healthy lifestyle, believing that over the years of my life, quality beat quantity in matters of my longevity that allowed for comforts and pleasures, and all the satisfactions of a ‘good life’  … and for being of some small usefulness for others.

One November night I developed an unusually severe aching numbness in my left wrist. This persisted and was not like my usual aching wrists suffered after a prolonged session at my lathe, turning wood. Finally I went to the emergency room where as often happens in dentists’ offices and ERs and at moms’ knees, the pain subsided while in a safe place waiting to be seen. However I was there and thought to at least get an EKG and maybe some blood work so I signed in. That did it, I was caught up in the “System” and all my firm resolutions to make my own medical decisions disappeared. To be sure, I was given information, disclosure, and disclaimers. I wasn’t railroaded, but in reality and actuality the decision for surgery was made for me.

 In a cubicle made up of billowing curtains highlighted by dancing shadows, lying medicated in a bed surrounded by strangely unreal environs for hours made the tacit assumption that I was informed and in charge more than dubious.

I assented to the advice of a group of strange white coats (as always happens, my doctor was out of town)  then promptly dozed off to a sedated sleep and was on my way.  I still wonder if I should have signed out and gone home to think for myself. That option wasn’t really available that long night lying in an ER bed in a surreal booth with strange chrome plated devices, gurgling bottles and some sort of numbers game being played on a small screen. I’m told that I had a seven hour operation, then to ICU for a week.

Subsequent were days of pleural effusions, dyspnea, edema, hematuria, asthenia, anorexia, insomnia, depression and overall the confusion (merciful ?) of a cloudy grey mind numbing “pumphead” probably owing to those seven hours on life support sustained by old blood –then back to the surgical ward where my convalesence deteriorated!, You know the drill — bed baths and bed pans, condescending well meant platitudes and general loss of what little remained of my humanity. It seems to me that being dehumanized, even if such a state is only vaguely recognized, is somehow harder to endure than physical symptoms.

My physicians and nurses were competent and caring and the hospital services were first rate. I’m told that the food was on time, varied and tasty, I wouldn’t know, For some reason I survived on potato soup, probably some sort of atavistic return to a Scottish ancestry?  I’ll have to consult my son’s 23andme genetic data. That I’m still here and writing this today is a testament to good care by good people and my loving, competent RN wife. I am grateful, but I remember the bad as much or more than the good. I should rejoice. Sorry!  Anyway, I like potato soup to this day.

This isn’t a poor me tale ‘o woe intended to arouse your sympathy and empathy although maybe to encourage your comments, perhaps your disagreements, even your ire. Likely that defines a part of my personality, It’s really about something I learned to believe in during that fateful year. 

This is what I learned and truly believe. My survival of a year with miserable and disabling signs and symptoms taught me that there is a necessary element of bedside nursing care of both men and women that only females, especially RNs can provide.

The RN part assures the knowledge that prevents doing harm and the female part provides a kind of honest soothing and hands on warmth, comfort and tenderness accompanied with that lovely lilt of female voice and gentle movements –that God-given nurture that only a woman is capable of providing.

IMO, there is a special kind of intimacy about bedside nursing that male nurses can’t provide for men or women.  For me this isn’t sexist, it’s just fact. My male nurses were great, competent and caring, but I’m so convinced of the unique attributes of female nurses, aides and caregivers for most of us that I’ll push my thoughts of womanly nurture a bit further as you sigh and nod up and down or perhaps side to side.

We are a group dedicated to ‘knowing’ so I should not denigrate the feminist movement, abridge good taste, disrupt political correctness or break the laws of nature or man by wondering out loud –if I make my case re female nurses is it also true that male nurses and care givers provide an element of bedside care that females cannot.

What do you think?  I ask seriously and specifically and only about bedside patient care, not about any other need or exigency that affects our lives. I hope I haven’t written too many wordy ‘begets and begats’ that have made you sign off in angry disgust or doze off in abject boredom. If so you won’t be reading this far anyway. but if you are, the courtesy of your honest comments would be much appreciated.



Take me back to the Contents

© Dr. Arch M. and, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dr. Arch M. and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Comments on: "Arch’s Corner — October, 2012" (2)

  1. Arch – I’m not sure what to think about this but it is obvious that you personally prefer female nurses and maybe that is all that is important — the preference of the patient. While Genny was in isolation she received excellent care from the female and male nurses and one of the guys was quite adept at getting her up and walking. He had a great sense of humor. Her favorite NP was a man because he was very competent, went to great length to ensure we understood her daily counts and kab reports, handled my drilling questions with fabulous wit, and he was handsome to boot (well,maybe that is why I liked him–ha ha). But then transplant nurses and oncology nurses in general are a special group of people – we never had a bad nurse, male or female, her entire stay in the hospital. Gen had no problem with the male nurses accessing her port, checking her tummy, listening to her heart. That said, when it came to having to use a porta-potty during those early days of recovery, Genny would ask the charge nurse to send in a female nurse to help her instead. So perhaps Genny’s experience isn’t so dissimilar than yours in some ways. It is an interesting observation. Thanks for a well written article.

  2. Another interesting article by Arch. Being female I do enjoy having males around, my husband included. In defense of male nurses, I have found that most have a delightful sense of humor which is much needed in a hospital environment.

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