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The most unexpected ‘reward’ I’ve ever received for being a nurse


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Very often, nurses find that their work seems to follow them–on vacation, to the store, at the kids’ soccer games. After awhile, we begin to accept this as par for the course.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Germany with my husband and a group of his coworkers. THEY had to work while I would get to tour the city of Cologne.

Or so I thought.

On the plane, about an hour from the coast of Scotland, a flight attendant requested a doctor to the rear of the aircraft. We were seated directly in front of the rear restroom, and the only people who seemed to be headed toward the rear were lining up to use the facility.

After a minute I got up and went back. I found a middle-aged German lady seated with oxygen on and two flight attendants present. They told me that she had made her way to the rear of the plane after “waking up, not feeling good, and having wet her pants.”

There also was a young man seated beside her who did not appear to be related. I asked if he was a doctor and he responded, “Yes ma’am.” (You know that you have been a nurse for a while when the doctors start calling you ma’am). “But I work for the CDC and haven’t done any clinicals since I was a resident.” I assured him that I was an ICU nurse and we would get through this together.

I started the usual assessment with vital signs, history and meds–fortunately she spoke English!–and ascertained that she probably had experienced a TIA (transient ischemic attack or “pinstroke”).

After ensuring that she could safely swallow and noting that her blood pressure was a bit low, I instructed the flight attendants to give her a full bottle of water every half hour for two hours, then every hour until landing.

I then explained to the patient what had happened and offered her four baby aspirin (which I have learned to carry at all times–this once happened to a priest with whom I was serving the Holy Communion in the middle of a service!).

I administered the aspirin and filled out a medical form the flight attendant gave me. (Paperwork is ALWAYS part of the job-even at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic!)

A few minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked up to see the flight attendant handing me a card: “Thank you for rendering medical assistance to a passenger in flight. Please accept these 5,000 Sky Miles as a token of our appreciation.”

A nice, unexpected “reward” indeed!

However, the REAL reward came just after sunrise when we landed and were getting up to leave the plane. My patient was seated in the middle of the cabin and she reached out, grabbed my hand and thanked me. She promised to see her physician and hadn’t experienced any further symptoms.

We all know that our skills and experience can be called upon at any time and any place. Sometimes it is in the one that you least expect! What’s the quirkiest reward you’ve ever received for being a nurse?

You make a living out of what you do. You make a life out of what you give (Winston Churchill).

Nurse Rene
Nurse Rene has been an RN since 1978; CCRN since 1989 and attained a BSN in 2010. She has worked in virtually every specialty from Neonatology to Neurosurgery and is a Member of Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society with a particular interest in helping students and new grads develop to their full potential. She's been married for 33 years and has a keen interest in history and in current issues as nursing continues to develop as a Real Profession. When not spoiling the grandchildren, she enjoys sewing, cooking, kayaking, camping and travel. She likes all music which does not hurt her ears, watching NCIS, Leverage, Top Gear and Criminal Minds and reads books written by Clive Cussler, Miss Manners, Erma Bombeck and Tom Clancy. She enjoys collecting Quotations for use in her writings.

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