My Most Important Patient: A Story for National Nurses Week
Camille Lloyd, an RN with Cornerstone Hospice, details how her father influenced her on her nursing journey and the valuable lessons in compassion she picked up along the way.
Every year, between May 6 and May 12, we observe National Nurses Week. It’s an important time to reflect on what millions of nurses do in this country. It’s a difficult time for them. Nursing shortages and burnout have put stress on clinicians all over the country. Approximately, 100,000 left the workforce for those very reasons in the past two years and more than 610,000 expressed intent to leave by 2027, according to a study from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. How do the nurses who stick it out stay motivated? What drives them to push through the stress, long-hours and difficult conversations with patients?
A lesson from my father, a family physician, answered it best. I believe it captures what National Nurses Week is all about. Someone asked him, “Who was the most important person you ever cared for?” He answered quickly. “The most important person I have cared for was always the one sitting in front of me,” he said. My father never judged and never treated based on a person’s ability to pay. He often got paid in produce, flowers and even received two dogs in exchange for office visits. He loved caring for people and that is what he taught me.
My Nursing Journey
As a nurse I have worked in many settings, from the streets of New York City to the mountains of Honduras. Each place was unique but similar because I was able to care for people in need and treat them as they deserved with dignity and respect.
I did my community nursing in Honduras. I cared for my first hospice patient there. An elderly gentleman on a cot in a small hut with no air conditioning. He showed signs of end of life, and we couldn’t transport him to a hospital. This is when I educated the family and empowered them to make him comfortable and celebrate his life. It was an amazing afternoon listening to stories and lifting the family’s spirits.
In New York City, I did well checks and foot care on the homeless. I didn’t go there because my career necessitated it. I was there under other circumstances, but I’m grateful I had the opportunity to provide care to those who needed it.
It didn’t change people’s lives drastically, but the time I took to listen to each person was invaluable. Listening is such a powerful tool. I gained trust and gave each person time to feel they were valued. Sometimes, that’s all a patient really needs. Someone to listen and understand.
The Hospice Philosophy
Working in a hospice inpatient unit, I treat patients and families that are vulnerable. They share some of the most meaningful moments of their lives with me. It can be scary, sad and so emotional, but with the right words and care I can help change these feelings. Like many hospice nurses, I don’t recognize socioeconomic status when I treat a patient. None of that matters anymore. I see a person in need of care, and I set myself to the task of caring for that whole person.
Many patients are wearing hospital gowns when they’re admitted. They might need a shave, mouth care or a bath. This initial care is essential. This builds trust and shows them they matter as a person, not just a patient. This is reflected in my conversation with the family. You can’t care for a hospice patient without caring for their family. They are one and the same.
Working for Cornerstone Hospice, an affiliate of Chapters Health System, is an honor and a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. Every day, I can make a difference in someone’s life. I have a beautiful facility to work in, the best tools to do my job, volunteers to support me and an amazing team of clinicians that have the same passion I do.
It is really something to see a patient come through our doors and watch the entire team work to make them comfortable. From housekeeping to the clinical nursing assistants (CNAs), every team member has an important role to play. No job is simple because it’s not simple to the patient and the family. It’s everything. Our initial assessment and bath are often overwhelming to family members because their loved one has been suffering and simple self-care is difficult. It is powerful to know you changed that and made a difference. Our unique setting is a true gift and runs so well because every staff member works from their heart and treats each patient as if they are our only patient.
As my father said, “My most important patient is always the one in front of me.”
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