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A Letter to My Patient...

I hear you.

Good evening. 

My name is LeeAnn, and I am the nursing assistant working with (insert nurse's name here.) I will be with you..

Oh, I’m sorry? You need to use the restroom? Sure thing, ma’am. Let me assist you there. 

Pain meds? Water? Ice pack? No problem! Let me get your water and ice, and inform your nurse about the need for pain meds. No problem. 

Another patient rings before I could find the nurse. Management said to answer the lights promptly. I answer the light. 

Accident? Full bed change. No problem sir! 

I leave to get a bed change. The bathroom bell goes off. Yes ma’am, let’s get you back to bed. No, I did not forget about your ice and water. Nor did I forget about your pain meds. I will be back momentarily. 

Oh no, bed change. That’s first. I can’t let him lay there. Bed sores? Laying in feces? No. Bed change, water and ice, pain meds. 

I bathe my patient. 

Another light. Accidental call. Vitals. 

It’s been an hour. I’ve still not had a chance to let the nurse know about your meds. I haven’t gotten your ice water or ice pack refilled. 

I am sorry. 

I know you don’t believe me. I know you’ve heard it a million times. You’re in pain, you’re sick, I understand. I am truly not trying to upset you or leave you in pain. I really do care. We’re short staffed, extremely, but I cannot tell you that. I am doing my best. Please don’t yell at me. 

Excuse me, nurse! This patient is asking for pain medicine. 


Drop everything and run...

Patient is on end of life. Family needed a break. I’m going to skip my lunch today, to sit with her. I’m going to hold her hand and pray with her. I’m not religious but she is. We’re going to talk about her life. I’m going to engage. She lights up talking about her children and her husband. Talking about her accomplishments. My heart is full listening to her. I wash her hair, style it the best I can. We laugh, as much as she can. We joke and talk like old girlfriends. 

I come back the next night. Her room is empty. She made it home, she just wasn’t discharged. My heart breaks. She was so young. (86 is the new 68). I have to go on taking care of my other patients. The thought of her lingering in my mind. 


Oh, right. Compressions. Staying alive theme. What’s the doctor saying? I can’t hear him over the yelling. We have a pulse. Rush to the unit. 

Clean up the room. Ice water and ice pack. 

Finally delivered. Now, you’re screaming at me. Asking for my supervisor. I comply. The patient is right, I’m not doing my job. 

I finish out my night. 

I sit in my car and cry. 

My patients were alive when I left. But I felt my job was incomplete. 

Dear patients,

I am sorry. I am sorry, that you are sick. I am sorry that you are in pain. I'm not the nurse, so I am just the middle man for pain medications, but I will try to make you comfortable. I promise, when I do something, it is in your best interest. I know my limits and I know yours. My job, which I am extremely prideful about, it’s to keep you safe and alive. You have every right to be upset and agitated when you’re sick. I am too. But please don’t yell at me. I will sit and talk with you when I can. I will ask you questions and I will try to understand. I will comfort you and your family, when things are uneasy. I would take your pain if I could. I will hold your hand when you are scared. I will pray with you, no matter who you pray to. I will feed you, even if it takes two hours. I will bathe you, even when you’re embarrassed to have to rely on me. I will explain what I’m doing, before I start to touch you. I will jump for joy when your results come back negative. I will be your biggest cheerleader when you walk for the first time after surgery. When you pass, I will sit in your room and pray. I will wash you and gown you, before I send you. I will give you the same dignity in death. While I am caring for you, I will take every step necessary to make you happy. But I am only human. I will advocate for you, even when you’re yelling at me. I will stand to protect you, when you’re unable to protect yourself. I will be, absolutely everything you need me to be. I will not be your punching bag. 

They say, during orientation, to not get attached to your patients. Don’t take your work home with you. And I try not to. How could you not? I talked to a 106 year old war vet, who came home to marry his sweetheart. I talked to a nurse. A mother. A caregiver. I’ve seen the battle scars. And heard the stories. I’ve seen my patients in their best and worst moments. I gave them the first real conversation in years, and I was interested, even if they thought I was just being nice. I do get distracted trying to care for all 17 of you. But I won’t leave you until my promises are fulfilled. I won’t take my lunch or my breaks, just so I can give you a warm bath and brush your hair. 

When I clock in, my political and religious beliefs, stay in the car. My prejudices stay at the door. My home life, is at home. When I clock in, you are my responsibility and I will not leave you lonely. 

Trust in me, as your caregiver. 

Trust in me, as your friend. 

I will not give up on you, even when you’re giving up on yourself. 

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