I believe I can make it better. I learned this as a new licensed practical nurse.
I had gone back to school at 35 to become an LPN. For a full year, I went to school every day during the week and worked at a nursing home every other weekend. I missed a lot in that year: my children, my family and my life. I worked hard and graduated with a 3.8 GPA. Then I found my dream job at a local hospital.
ER called for help with a code blue that night. It was my first time doing CPR on a real person. He was a man in his 40s, a few years older than I was. He had just dropped at work.
Everything was done right. Bystanders started CPR immediately, the ambulance got there in good time, they arrived at our ER quickly, and we did everything possible. We tried very hard to bring that man back. His wife had arrived. This shouldn’t be happening.
After what seemed like forever, the doctor “called the code” and pronounced the time of death. I thought, “Well, that didn’t do any good. Why did I go through that year of school, so I could stand here and not help this man? How could I work so hard and still not be able to fix this?”
The doctor went to talk to the family. Staff went to take care of other patients. The ER nurse and I stayed in the room to get him ready for the family. CPR is a very messy procedure. It causes the body to “leak” from various orifices. “Would I want my last memory of my husband to be this?” I thought. Then we made it better.
The ER nurse and I cleaned him up. We covered him with a sheet so you couldn’t see the tubes and wires. We washed his hands and placed them where she could hold them. We cleaned his face so she could kiss him without smelling vomit. We put a warm blanket over him so he wouldn’t feel cold. We brought a chair. We gave her time and privacy so she could grieve.
That was the night I learned how to be a nurse. In that long year, I had learned the science, the mechanics, but that night I learned how to make it better.
I can’t always save people — people die — but I can always make it better. I can hold a hand, cool a brow and offer a chair to an exhausted family member. I can make you laugh, rub your back, listen to your fears and ease your pain. I can help make your memories a little less sad and a little more memorable.
I can make things better outside of work, too. I can hold a door, smile at the clerk, let the trucker merge or give my fellow beachcomber a cool sand dollar. It’s the little things that people remember. It’s how we touch one another. It’s how we make it better.
“I Can Make Things Better,” Copyright © 2005 by Christine Ott. Part of the This I Believe Essay Collection found at www.thisibelieve.org, Copyright © 2005-2009, This I Believe, Inc. Reprinted with permission.