68: Who’s Paying Attention?

68: Who’s Paying Attention?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Who’s Paying Attention?

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.


I was the clinical instructor for a community college’s Associate Degree Nursing program and my students were completing their last term on a large medical unit. Their objectives were to function independently, knowing when to ask for help while practicing their critical thinking and organizational skills.

Amy was assigned to care for Ella, a 100-year-old skilled–nursing home resident who was hospitalized for recurrent wound infections. Ella had many dressing changes, IVPB antibiotics, a GT feeding, and numerous medications. Amy spent long hours at Ella’s bedside and was appropriately independent. My role was to stand at the opposite side of the bed, supervising, offering encouragement, and supporting Amy as needed.

Ella’s level of consciousness varied. She did not answer questions appropriately, was not oriented to time or place, and was frequently combative. She was almost always yelling, singing, or calling for people who weren’t there. Most of the time her eyes were closed, but she did seem to take comfort from reassurances and gentle touch.

At the end of the last day of the clinical assignment, Amy was completing her care while Ella jabbered on, with me standing by as usual. When she was just about finished with the laborious process, Amy asked me a question.

Ella interrupted her ranting, stopped thrashing, opened her eyes, looked at Amy, and yelled, “What the hell are you asking her for? She hasn’t done anything all week! All she does is stand there!”

Amy and I both roared with laughter and told Ella we agreed with her.

I am sure Ella’s comment did more for Amy’s confidence that day than any evaluation I could have given her.

~Mary Lynn Harrison

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