I am in a position of power as a pediatric ICU nurse.
I can hold a wriggly patient down, poke him with needles, insert tubes into her nose.
I can give or withhold food to a hungry child per a doctor’s orders. I can abruptly wake my patient from much-needed sleep at any time, day or night. Move the patient around when he doesn’t want to be moved “because I need to check something.” Wrap all sorts of medical devices around fingers, arms, legs and toes “because it’s good for you.”
I can give medications that induce sleep, paralysis even. Give medications that cause the blood pressure to rise or fall. Give medications that prompt the patient’s body to urgently flush itself of urine or stool. Give medications that burn a vein, or relieve intense agony.
I can expose my most vulnerable patients to, or protect them from, germs I carry on my own self. My very person can be a vehicle of safety or harm.
I am privy to information about my patients’ diagnoses that these very patients and their parents are sometimes not yet privy to. I can lead or mislead.
I can give a parent false hope, real hope, misinformation, real information, confusion, clarity.
I can frustrate, ease, patronize, empathize, shut down, hold open.
I can empower my patients and families, and I can silence them.
I never realized in nursing school what power I would hold as a bedside nurse.
Every unique patient encounter confronts me with the question of how much
sharpness of mind,
softness of heart,
fortitude of spirit,
careful crafting of words I bring,
considering this power I am entrusted with
to serve and care for the sick, the suffering, the hurting, the vulnerable.
I pray that with this power, I would always have an appropriate level of fear, a generous heart of respect, and a deep spirit of discernment to use it only ever for good.