The Value of Time

The Value of Time

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

The Value of Time

We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

Nelson Mandela

As a nurse, I knew the battle of the nursing shortage and our inability to spend individual time with our patients. When I flipped to the other side of the bed rail and became a mastectomy patient, I wanted to be as little fuss for the nursing staff as possible.

I arrived on the post-op ward at 3:00 PM with nausea and vomiting. Instead of putting on my call bell, I recruited my family to help measure my emesis. The nursing unit was short-staffed that evening, something I deciphered from hearing nurses talking outside my door. It was cracked open only six inches—but sound travels more than we realize. One nurse had called in sick with no one to cover for her. There were two Whipple (pancreatic surgery) patients who were fresh post-ops. Another patient had crumped (coded) and was taken to the SICU. It was organized chaos.

Myckie, my evening shift nurse, came in every ninety minutes or so to empty my hemovacs, check my I&O, and ask me how I was feeling. I had declined pain medication due to the nausea problem. Each time Myckie prepared to leave my room she would say, “How are you doing?”

I answered, as if rehearsed, “I’m fine.” That was the extent of our conversations.

My husband left at 10:00 PM to go home to our child and I was alone for the first time to reflect on what had happened, and to deal with the reality of a cancer diagnosis with still unknown pathology. That would determine the rest of my treatment and potentially my fate.

At 10:50 PM, Myckie reentered my room to empty my drains one more time and record the amount remaining in my IV bag. She again asked, “How are you doing?”

I again responded, “I’m fine.”

She paused, put my side rail down, and sat beside me.

We made eye contact for the first time. She stared right at me and said, “How are you doing?”

I started to cry. “I don’t know how I got on the other side of this side rail but it is really scary over here.” I told her my worries about my future, about my child, in the event I lost my life to this disease. I rambled for twenty minutes. She didn’t utter a word, but held my hand, focusing her eyes on mine and nodding that she was listening intently. It was now 11:10 PM. A unit clerk came to the door and sternly said, “Myckie, you are late for report.”

Myckie didn’t turn around but kept her focus on me. “Tell them to wait. I’m taking care of a patient.”

Myckie gave me that night what she had the least to give . . . her time. I didn’t need special sophisticated machines or interpretation of test results. I needed to express myself and know I wasn’t alone.

I’ve read before that we know the value of time when we measure it in ways of what we lost as a result of not having enough of it. A student learns the value of a year when he is held back in grade eight. A mother knows the value of a month when she gives birth to a premature baby. The grandmother, late for a plane for her daughter’s wedding, knows the value of an hour.

We nurses know the value of the few moments we are privileged to have being present to our patients.

Lillie D. Shockney

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