One of the nurses had called in sick, leaving Michelle to administer medications to all of their patients in addition to those she already cared for. Because of the number of patients she needed to see, Michelle was making her normal rounds at a break-neck pace. Everyone on the floor needed medications, in the correct dosages, and at the correct times. She was going at more than twice her normal pace and had the panicky feeling that she was constantly falling behind. In the chaotic rush of making sure everyone got the physical attention they needed, Michelle was unable to make sure that they got the personal attention that she knew they also needed. However badly she felt about this, she knew she needed to set her priorities, and that the physical care of the patients needed to be her first concern.
“Good morning,” Michelle said as she breezed into a patient’s room. Even to her own ears, she sounded a little out of breath. Hoping the patient hadn’t noticed how rushed she was, Michelle grabbed the clipboard at the foot of the bed, noted the medications the patient needed – anxiety medication and vomiting suppressant – and the appropriate dosages. She returned the clipboard to its peg and turned away to retrieve the medications.
“Stop! Don’t go!” The patient grabbed Michelle’s wrist, detaining her in the room. “I don’t want to be alone! I’ve been alone in here too long.”
“I know it’s lonely, I’m just going to get your medicine and come right back,” Michelle said, trying to gently pry her wrist out of the patient’s vise-like grip.
“I don’t want to die alone,” the patient said.
“You won’t die here,” Michelle said. “I promise. I’ll be right back.”
“No!” The patient wouldn’t let go of Michelle’s wrist. She started crying, begging Michelle not to leave her, convinced she was going to die.
Michelle wondered what she was going to do; the patient obviously needed her anxiety medications in order to have some peace, but she wouldn’t be able to get it for her if the patient kept on this way. Knowing that there wasn’t another nurse on the floor to help her yet, Michelle started to worry that she wouldn’t be able to handle the situation. Just as the thought started to become alarming to her, she heard a knock on the door.
Phyllis from Errand Solutions popped her head in the door. “Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked. Without waiting for a response from Michelle, Phyllis entered the room and took the patient’s hand, releasing Michelle. She sat down next to the bed.
“I don’t want to die alone,” the patient told her.
“I don’t think you’ll die today, but I’ll sit with you,” Phyllis said happily.She started to talk about what was going on downstairs in the lobby, a funny story about a little boy who asked her for an autograph. The patient began to calm down and listened to Phyllis’s story, never letting go of her hand.
Michelle slipped out to get the patient’s medications, and when she came back, the patient took her medications with very little fuss. Remembering how many patients she had left to see, Michelle slipped out of the room again and finished making her rounds.
Later in the day, she returned to find Phyllis still sitting with the patient. The patient was no longer crying, but was laughing and joking with Phyllis. Michelle smiled to herself, glad to see that someone was both able and willing to provide the personal care the patient needed when she hadn’t been able to.