When we were given our licenses to practice medicine, nursing, respiratory care, pharmacy, social work, physical and occupational therapy, we were given not only a license to write orders, administer medications, or give breathing treatments. We were given a trust that goes far beyond a technical practice. Of course, honing our practices is vital, and good intention and a kind disposition can never replace medical malpractice. But while we bear the weightiness of our practice on our shoulders, it is the weightiness of that trust that we bear most on our hearts.
I came in for my shift, and saw on paper that my patient would be fairly light in terms of technical nursing practice. Not many meds to give. Provide the basic essentials of nursing care. But one hour into the shift, the physician came in to ever so gently break the news to the family and the patient that this once healthy individual was going to have significant medical needs for a lifetime. It was going to affect every. single. thing. about this patient’s future. I was filled with such awe and gratitude for her straightforwardness balanced with the most delicate sensitivity as she explained the prognosis. What respect she showed for the trust that has been given to her to have that kind of conversation. She was not rushed by any means, but she did not stay for long after she delivered the news. As she quietly exited, I felt the weight of The Trust fall very, very heavily on my shoulders. I still had eleven hours as the most consistent person at the bedside with a patient and family whose world had just been completely, irreversibly turned upside down. They were reeling. I didn’t know them before this shift, but it was the trust given to me to care-fully, full-of-care, read their emotional cues and navigate those cues with prayer and grace every step of the next eleven hours. Do they want a lot of privacy, or a strong nursing presence? Do they want to jump into all the practical questions about what their future might look like, or do they need me to talk very minimally at this raw stage about the reality that awaits them? When is levity and talking about hobbies appropriate? Will they trust me enough to share a little bit about their grief and fears? Will they trust me to go to that hard place with them and not let them down? I felt it. The weight. The trust. It intimidates me and it shapes me. I fear it but I embrace it.
Oh let me always be a faithful, ever-teachable, humble steward of this trust.