1. Schoonover-Shoffner, Kathy

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I'd like to think I'm a good nurse; competent, compassionate, and caring. I have fixed ideas about what these things are and I'd like to think I do the three "C's" well. Recently, I had opportunity to rethink my ideas about good (and not so good) nursing. This spring my 15-year-old daughter was in a skiing accident, suffering significant head trauma with left occipital and basilar skull fractures, a large epidural hematoma, and multiple contusions throughout her brain.

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I was surprised when the first thing I noticed about the ER nurses wasn't their competence. I found myself desperately wanting their compassion. Did the nurses and other personnel care about us? Did they see my precious daughter, a beautiful girl made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)? Did they see me? As we received care in different locations, each time what was most important was the nurses' compassion and caring. Some nurses identified with us, looking "not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4, NIV). They talked to my daughter even though she appeared unconscious, offered me support, and explained things. On the air ambulance I noticed how gently the nurses handled her and all of the attached tubes and lines, how they kept asking if I was okay. I noticed on her admission to PICU how the nurses looked at her and at me with eyes full of compassion. I was deeply moved when on the second night in PICU her nurse said to me, "We're going to try to get you a bit more sleep tonight." When I noticed premature ventricular contractions, then bigeminy, then occasional PVC couplets on the heart monitor, this same nurse puzzled through the situation with me and took rhythm strips and a stat 12-Lead EKG to a cardiology resident for an informal consult. These were good nurses, who anticipated, looked for, and responded to our needs.


In contrast there were nurses who, although competent, did not express much compassion and caring. These nurses didn't tell me their names, at times avoided eye contact, and neither anticipated nor seemed to want to hear about our needs. When I wanted to know who our nurse was, some came across as not interested in helping me discover who or where that nurse might be. I never thought my daughter received inadequate treatment, but some of our nurses said with their glances, words, or actions, "I have other things to do."


I now value compassion and caring over competence. Nurses who don't know something but truly care will find out what is needed. I've thought about times when I gave competent care-passed all my meds, did all treatments, performed good trouble-shooting, did everything correctly-but didn't look for patients' needs. I thought about busy shifts where I avoided patients and families so I could get "my" work done. Did those patients feel cared for?


God is our profound example of good nursing care. He told Moses, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out[horizontal ellipsis] and I am concerned about their suffering." (Exodus 3:7, NIV). He then rescued and tenderly cared for his people. God told the prophet Samuel, "I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me." (1 Samuel 9:16, NIV). A psalmist wrote, "Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you;" then reported, "The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death." (Psalm 102:1, 19-20, NIV). The gospel writers frequently tell of Jesus looking at people and loving them (i.e., Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:32; Mark 1:41). Good nurses, like Jesus, for the joy set before them, endure challenges as they serve others (Hebrews 12:2).


When our shifts are busy and our patients difficult, will the cries of our patients' and families' reach us? Will we see their misery and be concerned? Will we look from our position and help? -KSS