I am back in Aberdeen wrapping up the 6-month Quantum Caring Initiative with NHS Grampian's Aberdeen Maternity Hospital NICU and Dr. Gray's Special Care Nursery in Elgin.
The focus of the project has been the adoption and implementation of better practices in pain and stress prevention, assessment and management, and the role of the family in comforting their hospitalized infant (defined by the core measures for trauma-informed care of the hospitalized infant and family.)
When I get to talk about this topic with clinicians, in addition to presenting the biology and the science behind why it's so critically important to manage pain and stress in this profoundly vulnerable patient population, I am also drawn to talk about the humanistic dimensions of the work we do as nurses and healthcare professionals.
Florence Nightingale described the role of nursing as caring for the human experience of disease. What is the human experience of the infant in this picture above? Beyond the trappings of intensive care does anything else jump out at you?
We are greater than the sum of our diagnoses and yet in the NICU it is quite often the diagnosis, the seductive technology and the sexy equipment that grabs our attention and captivates us, while the suffering oftentimes can go unnoticed or unrecognized.
As ICU clinicians we can often lose ourselves in the technology and define the quality of service we provide to our tiny patients by our technical prowess. We forget that you can teach ANYONE how to put in a PICC line, how to draw blood or even intubate a baby.
The true measure (in my opinion) of a great clinician is how well they balance the physiological needs of the patient with their human, developmental needs. One does not overshadow the other, they are both equally important!
I think sometimes we forget the awesome power we have to touch another person in a way that transcends the experience at hand and connects us with our shared humanity.
Thirty years ago I gave birth to my son Alex. He was a healthy baby and I was loving him up big time in my postpartum room when I got a call from my family to tell me my dad wasn't doing well. My dad had been dealing with a cancer diagnosis and he was now succumbing to the condition.
As I hung up the phone I began to cry and couldn't stop. I was hugging my sweet precious baby sobbing. I saw my nurse come into the room. She came in quietly and sat on the edge of my bed, next to me. She gently put her hand on my shoulder. I cried even harder.
I don't know how long she stayed with me, it was as if time stood still. She didn't say a word (or at least I don't remember her saying anything to me). No words were necessary. Her quiet presence was strangely comforting, my pain was seen, my sadness acknowledged all in the simple touch of her hand on my shoulder.
Thirty years have gone by and when I share that story it's as if it was yesterday. My heart fills up, my eyes start to leak and I see that nurse's face in my minds eye, caring quietly, authentically, and compassionately.
This is our super power - to bear witness and 'be with' other.
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." - Maya Angelou
What is the untold story of the baby and family you cared for yesterday? today? tomorrow?
Take care and care well,
P.S.: Using breakthrough, evidence-based strategies Caring Essentials helps you achieve clarity, build congruence, and challenges you, your colleagues, and your organization to become a center of excellence in trauma-informed care for infants, families and professionals.
P.P.S. Here is your quote for the week!