Service with a Smile (and a twitching eye)

Yesterday, a patient of mine stayed in my mind for much longer than she ever intended, I’m sure. She lingered in my brain hours after the shift ended, straight through the next morning, was the number one reason I praised God that I was put on-call, and then she later inspired this blog while my head still pounded with an ache the size of Alaska. So, what could make someone so genuinely memorable? The sheer volume of requests.

I am a pretty happy nurse when I clock in for the day. I’m even known for my smile, and I enjoy offering comfort in the shape of a warm blanket, a fresh cup of coffee, a witty joke, a trip to the bathroom or pain meds before a patient has to hit their call light. I always tell my patients, well, if you gotta be here, you might as well have a positive experience! And when I can be a part of that, I find satisfaction in my work.

But every so often there is an individual who can take my full bucket of patience, poke a hole in the bottom of it, and drain it for twelve hours until only frothy bubbles remain.

The gown is too big. Milk needs to be warmed up. Not warm enough. They didn’t bring me Splenda. Need a straw. Walk to bathroom. Pull-up is too small. Wipes are too cold. Need warm blanket. Can’t find toothpick (we looked everywhere). Need another blanket. Trip to bathroom. Wipes are too cold. Gown is too big. Four blankets is too much, just three. Trip to bathroom. Gown is too big. Four blankets instead of three. Lift blanket to scratch leg. Blankets are wet (they weren’t). Need warm blanket. This isn’t what I ordered for lunch. This needs more salt. Can’t find toothpick. Blankets are wet (nope). Lift blankets to scratch leg. Table is touching knee. Trip to bathroom. Gown is too big. Need warm blanket under the other blankets.

She was in isolation, too. Gown and gloves every time you enter room.

I would try, almost plead, (with a smile!) is there anything else (before I leave the room)? Nothing? Okay. Take off gloves, take off gown, wash hands. Four minutes later . . .

Call light.

Anyone who has worked in a line of service will probably relate, or perhaps even if you have had to live with or eat with or room with or sit next to a needy individual, you know what I’m talking about. The extremely needy people in our lives probably have no idea that they fall into that category. They probably have no idea how exhausting they are to be around. And in some circumstances, their requests may be just as much about securing human interaction as it is about managing their comfort. But, phew, it’s a lot for us to handle.

I tend to think of myself as low on the maintenance scale. I have a very hard time asking people for anything, other than my kids who are learning discipline and chores and not to take Mommy for granted. Does this make it harder for me to serve those on the other end of the spectrum? Or easier? I don’t know. All I know is that I need a whole lotta Holy Spirit to stay at peace around them, and by the next day my head hurts.

How do you deal with needy needy? How do you refill after a complete draining of patience?

And do headaches manifest as new gray hairs? I better go check.

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