32: Promises

32: Promises

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses


Promises are only as strong as the person who gives them…

~Stephen Richards

He was sitting in the waiting area of my office with his wife, his eyes red from crying. I shook Kyle’s damp hand and asked them to come into my office. As we sat around the table, Kyle held his wife’s hand and in tears said, “I am sorry.”

I’d had the exciting privilege of assisting in the design and move into our new Midland Memorial Hospital. Yet even more important than creating a state-of-the-art facility with all the bells and whistles was our focus on the staff providing the care. We knew that people being their best provided our patients and their visitors with exceptional care and experiences.

A part of our Culture of Ownership was having every hospital staff member repeat daily the Self-Empowerment Pledge with that day’s promise. Monday’s promise, for example, was responsibility: I will take complete responsibility for my health, my happiness, my success, and my life, and will not blame others for my problems and predicaments. There were promises for each day of the week and we asked our staff to read these together at each change of shift or other times of the day.

Kyle, a registered nurse in our endoscopy unit for many years, was asked by his manager to embrace the Self-Empowerment Pledge and to say it daily out loud with other team members.

Now, through tears, he said, “Each day’s promise was hard for me to say. I went home yesterday and talked to my wife about how conflicted I felt. And then scheduled this appointment with you….” His voice broke.

I handed him a tissue and listened.

“I’ve been doing something that goes against these daily promises… and my own values.”

He went on to tell me that for years he had been diverting narcotics from the unit for his personal use. He was addicted. He assured me that he had never taken anything from his patients. Reading the daily promises had caused tremendous conflict with his values and his actions.

“I’ve been living a lie,” he cried. “I want to get my life back in order.”

He knew there could be serious consequences. He could be arrested for theft. He could lose his job and possibly his nursing license. He could have overdosed or lost his life. The very livelihood he had built for years as a trusted professional nurse was in jeopardy. Completely humbled, he wept, “I’m willing to accept the penalties for my actions.”

Holding back tears myself, I said, “I can’t imagine how much courage it took for you to come talk to me and tell me the truth. I promise I will get you the help you need.”

I followed the steps required by the state board of nursing and the state’s peer assistance program and did everything I could to get Kyle the assistance he needed to heal his mind, body and spirit. He left Midland Memorial for a time and participated in a drug rehab program. Eventually, he reported back to work with stipulations.

As I write this story, Kyle has been 270 days drug free and providing great care to our patients.

I saw him again recently and reminded him, “Kyle, I’m so proud of you and your conviction to right the wrong. How would you even describe this experience?”

“It’s a miracle,” Kyle responded.

By transforming our environment, and focusing on our staff, we keep our promises of exceptional care and witness miracles every day.

~Bob Dent

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