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A Nurse Remembers 30 Years of Caring

Posted on Wed, May 11, 2016
A Nurse Remembers 30 Years of Caring

By Sabrina Griffin, BSN

I have a plaque my mother gave me when I graduated from nursing school that says, “Nursing is the gentle art of caring.” I believe that’s been my mantra throughout my career.

It all started when I was a premed student working at a hospital as a nurse assistant on weekends and holidays. This particular weekend I was assigned to the pediatric floor. We had a tragic patient, a 6-year-old boy who had survived a home invasion with only a laceration across his neck. His mother was not so lucky; she was killed protecting her son. Because patients stayed in the hospital longer 30 years ago when this happened, the child was still in the hospital a week later when it was time to remove the stitches from his neck. A bunch of strangers walked into this child’s room armed with scissors and tweezers, going for his neck … of course he freaked out! We retreated to the nursing station to regroup. The decision was made to sedate him first. The doctor wrote the order and off he went. The nurse reassured the child and stayed with him while the medication was given and he drifted to sleep. The doctor then came back and removed the stitches.

After that experience, I changed my mind and applied to the nursing program. I realized my passion was with the hands-on care of patients rather than writing orders and diagnosing patients. 30 years later, this has been an incredible career and I have new, wonderful experiences every day. I’ve had the honor of sharing someone’s first day of life and, just as important, someone’s last. I’ve also been a patient and have received nursing care, bringing my career full circle.

A Look Back

I’ve been thinking back on my career and how incredible the last 30 years have been. How amazing to have been a nurse during this time of rapid computer and technology advances. When I first started nursing there were no cell phones; we used the intercom system to find one another. If a patient needed a croup tent, we made it ourselves. We had a metal trough we hooked to the bed, filled it with ice and put a clear plastic covering over the bed.

The doctors and nurses all gathered around the chart rack and we hand wrote everything in the chart. As a young nurse I learned a lot as the doctor discussed patients with the head nurse. I remember wearing my hat, white hose and shoes. How the uniform has changed! We even smoked at the nurses’ station!

I then transferred from pediatrics to emergency care, and that is where my passion ignited. I loved the “knife and gun club,” as it was called. The adrenaline rush and never knowing what the next patient would be. I loved trauma. My favorite was “car codes,” as we called it. That’s when a gunshot victim arrived in a private car unconscious in the back seat. We mixed our own IV bags, poured medication from large, communal bottles, put plaster casts on patients, and drew labs and blood gases.

I’ve been part of some great teams that saved lives, brought some back from the dead and, sadly, watched some slip through our hands. I have seen the destruction of a body from drugs and neglect. And I’ve seen babies appear when there was no pregnancy. I left emergency nursing for five years and had the honor to work with hospice. That’s where I saw the full circle of life. I went from saving every life we could to making every death the best it could be. “The art of caring” may be a warm hug or a tough conversation about why we’re not administering any more narcotics; both are very caring activities.

I now help facilities become more efficient and make the patient experience the best it can be. I love my job now as much as I did 30 years ago. I am blessed to be a nurse.

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Sabrina Griffin, BSN, is a Divisional Director of Clinical Services for EmCare.
 

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