I am putting on the blog a few stories from the book that I am attempting to write about my career as a corpsman, student, and a nurse. These are already written and I need to take a break, but do not want to disappoint those who are reading my writings.
As a nursing supervisor, the tasks I was called on to do are many and varied. Because the supervisors are the resource persons for all the shifts, weekends, and holidays. Everyday problems with bed assignments and staffing always abound. They are challenging but often other problems arise when least expected. These unusual occurrences often appear out of left field with no warning at all.
These things can pop up and you stand amazed, wondering “What happened?” or they may fall into gray areas. These are areas that have no written policies about them, or they are problems that had never occurred before, or they were concerns that had ever been addressed formally. The supervisor then is “Going where no man (or woman) has gone before.” At those times, a supervisor must use past experiences, weigh their options, and make expected and reasonable judgment calls.
Late one night, I received a telephone call from the critical care unit. A woman had shown up in the waiting area and wanted to come inside to pray for the patients that were there. They told me that the visitor had no relatives in the unit and to protect the clients’ privacy, they couldn’t let her come inside. Even then, it would have been highly irregular to permit her to do so. Her intentions seemed good. Now, with HIPPA regulations, it would have been illegal for allow her to do so. The nurses were also concerned about the woman’s mental state. Although her intentions seemed harmless, was she?
As I walked to the unit, I had time to collect my thoughts, sort them out, rearrange them, and try to come up with a solution. I wanted to satisfy the woman’s well-meaning desires and yet I still needed to protect the patients and the staff.
I approached the waiting area.
Through the window, I could see a middle-aged female sitting on the edge of one of the chairs, twisting a handkerchief in her hands. She looked up as I entered the waiting area. I smiled, introduced myself, taking a seat across from her, I asked. “What can I do you for you tonight?”
She explained, “Today is the second anniversary of my mom’s death. She passed away exactly two years ago.” She nodded her head towards the unit. Tears glistened in her eyes. “I was at home alone tonight and felt the need to come here and pray for the patients inside the unit.”
Now that I knew the reason for her being here, I understood it was an especially tender and as highly emotional moment for her. What could I do? My thoughts were still racing, trying to find an acceptable solution, one that would satisfy her needs and also our need to protect our clients’ privacy. As we talked, a vague idea started to form.
I began by explaining why I couldn’t allow her to go inside the unit to pray. “Because the patients are very sick, I can’t allow you to disturb them. They need their rest and privacy, but (The light bulb came on.) I know a place and a way for you to pray for each and every person in the whole hospital. Can you come with me?”
I stood and she started to follow. I noticed as I held the door open for her, the woman walked with a pronounced limp. I only hoped that I had really found a way to accommodate her wishes and that my proposed solution would satisfy her.
We talked as I lead her through the hallways to the hospital’s chapel. I opened the door to allow her to enter. It was quiet there with the lights inside lowered and soft. The crimson colored padded pews filled the back of the chapel, and at the far end, was a stained glass window, an altar, and a thick oak and wine colored padded kneeler. On the altar sat a wooden Star of David, a polished brass cross, and an opened Bible.
I placed my census list of the hospital’s patients that I always carried, face down, on the top rail of the kneeler. I turned to her and said, “This is a list of every patient in the hospital. Although I can’t show you their names, you can put your hands on these papers and pray for each one of them, not just the ones in the critical care unit. You can ask a blessing for them and all of the staff working here tonight, if you like.”
She gave me a small smile and limped to the kneeler. She knelt and placed her hands on the top of my papers. She bowed her head. After about five minutes or so, she raised her head. There were tears in her eyes.
I pulled a tissue from a box in the chapel and handed it to her.
“Thank you.” She said and rose to her feet.
I replied, “You’re quite welcome.” Then I added, “Now that you know where the chapel is located, anytime that you feel the need to pray you can come in here. The chapel is always open. If it is after visiting hours, just stop by the guards and let them know what you are doing and where you are going. Please feel free to come back anytime you feel the need.”
As she limped off, down the hallway, I prayed that I had met her needs and made a difficult time for her, easier to bear.