By Aaron Michelfelder and Fran Vlasses
As the health care professions struggle with defining a “doctor,” a “nurse,” and all of the other remarkable people comprising the health-care team, it is clear to us that the most important perspective is that of the patient. Who better to contribute to the conversation than a physician and a nurse who are patients themselves?
The Patient (a physician) on “What is a Nurse?”
It was the outpatient nurse whom I nervously called for an appointment with the surgeon, and who compassionately found a reasonably soon appointment time. At the visit, it was her gentle voice that immediately calmed me, and she who corrected the medication errors in my electronic chart. Later, as I lay on the hospital gurney awaiting surgery, it was the pre-op nurse who recognized the fear on my stoic face. She was the one who squeezed my hand and whispered, “Everything will be alright.” In the operating room through a haze of machines, bright lights, sedatives, and scattered voices, it was the pacemaker nurse, whom I have come to know well over many years, who triggered in me a wave of relief as she deactivated my defibrillator in preparation for surgery. Before the anesthesia, her face was the last I remember seeing, and hers was the first I saw when groggily recovering as she reactivated my defibrillator She who first relayed the good news of the successful surgery. It was the shaking hands of the student nurse, who attempted to change the IV bag, and his confident nurse professor who together, did everything right. At home, it was the surgical nurse practitioner who called to check on my recovery, and whose compassion and support bubbled through the phone. All of these extraordinary individuals have different training, duties, and approaches to health care; and yet as a patient, I recognize each of them as a nurse…
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