Nurses, Hospitals, Helping

Are you writing an exercise blog?
No. I write when I want to exercise my brain. Sometimes for practice. Sometimes to share an adventure. Sometimes out of happiness.

Ideally writing could be a space for processing the uncomfortable things in life. I’m fortunate in life to have family and friends to help me think the tough ones out. Exercise just happens to make me feel … Grounded. Happy. Calm. And a host of other wonderful benefits.

So yes, I do write often about exercise. I’ve missed two days of bootcamp this week because I ran out of time. Right now I am thinking of nurses. So that’s what my fingers type.

I don’t know how nurses do their jobs. The physical demands are tremendously challenging. The amount of emotional support required to compassionately offer care – with an incredibly high attention to detail – is mind boggling.

With the random spin of life I happen to know more than a handful of nurse in the Phoenix area. When testing out a cross-country move I scored with Airbnb. (I ended up in Phoenix as a tech friend moved after becoming a nurse. Go figure.)

My Airbnb host is a transplant nurse. Her (now) fiancée is a nurse. They work incredible magic in the kitchen. As a result I’ve been fed like no other human deserves at their lovely home. (I have favorite dishes. Yes, I’m precocious enough to ask for them.) The guest list has been filled with co-workers.

As they intensely would discuss work I’d occasionally interject, “Speak normal human. What the heck are you saying?” Medical jargon is heavy, intense and fast. A person needs to be able to spell to keep up. Fat fingering a diagnosis or medication has the potential to kill someone.

Nurses are important.

They are the individuals spending the majority of time with patients. They observe, they administer, they think quickly on their feet and they counsel. Tired beyond belief they stay past work hours to ensure their patients are cared for.

So I had heard.

“They must be drinking the special Kool Aid. No one likes their job this much.”

When my family had been focused on issues … we didn’t register the nurses. We wanted the patient to be cured. Returned back to us. The hospital felt alien, often loud and the seating could be spotty and uncomfortable. The food far away. (Not really. But elevators and long walks were involved.) When something terrible is happening to your loved one life stops.

In the middle of some important personal roadmap milestones last week Facebook jarred me with news. A friend was in the hospital. Scant details. However, enough to send up burning red flags. Ignoring the rules for social privacy I reached out to a close friend of hers.

It was bad. It is bad. However, this person is a beast. There isn’t much to say. She can scare people if she wants to. The side I know is a cheery, funny happy person. I asked if it was ok to visit so I did. Often folks are afraid to intrude. If a visit is too much, ask if you can help otherwise.

Remembering how suck-tastic everything felt with my planned surgery downtime I made a list. “This is what seemed important. I wish I had done this differently.” In the far future I could see my Mobilegs being useful so I offered them. I volunteered to run errands. I added items my nurse friends had often discussed.

“We’re hungry at work.”

“Whaaaat?” I said. “You have a job. You have a strong paycheck. What do you mean you’re hungry?”

“We are so busy we forget to eat. We have so little time to leave the pod. And when we do – if we do – venture downstairs for cafeteria stuff that’s lost time. That’s why we try and plan ahead and bring food to work. So we can sit upstairs and relax for a few minutes.”


A different nurse friend had shared something similar. So when I visited I made sure to bring fruit for the nurses. “Please. Take good care of this friend. This is a difficult time. Thank you.“

This is a list of things to bring patients:

  • Soft fluffy socks (preferably with rubber on the bottom)
  • A blanket (it gets chilly in a hospital)
  • Your time
  • Something to cheer them up *
  • Baby wipes + face towels (a shower may not be possible for the patient)
  • Real food **
  • A notebook and pen
  • A robe/sweats/pajamas ***
  • Floss, mouthwash, deodorant, razor
  • Hair stuff (if a patient can’t wash their hair dry shampoo rocks)

Tech gadgets. If the hospital visit is unexpected pack a spare Android or iPhone charger. They’re not heavy and will greatly be appreciated.

*If you order flowers please think carefully. Order a vase! Also, balloons are great. They’re low cost – check out the dollar stores. Cards are equally welcome. If you’re strapped for time grab those Post-its and a marker. I’m sure you can come up with something clever.

** Food should be room temperature friendly. I have never seen a mini-fridge in a hospital. The family will love you for having healthy snacks available. If the patient is staying longer than a day perhaps they crave outside food or drink. (No, not a bottle of wine.) + Real Coffee excites everyone!

It’s easy to bring something that’s light. If the patient doesn’t need it – you can eat it. (Yes, that was an accidental rhyme.)

*** Clothing may not work for all patients. (Hospital staff require access to touch and examine a patient.) However, those drafty paper thing gowns are the pits.

There are one million things that have to happen to coordinate a patient’s care.

Hospitals are for stabilizing an urgent situation. That’s it. Anything beyond that is wonderful. But the hospital is for urgent care. Social workers and case workers are available – but unfortunately limited. Ask for one anyway. While you’re at it see if pet therapy is available. Or art therapy.

Most important thing I’ve learned: Communication.

Everyone wants information.
Everyone is trying to help.

No one wants to drop the ball.

When possible medical updates will be shared directly with the patient. If you’re a team of two (a wife, partner, brother, sister) you might be out of the room when the medical people show up.

This is an awful feeling.

Patients can feel overwhelmed. If they are able to write a notebook helps to keep notes. It’s perfectly ok to ask a hospital person to slow down so notes can be taken.

Designate a clear primary point of contact for the medical team. My family has this in place with notarized power of attorney medical forms. They are free. It was kind of weird to fill everything out but it provided peace of mind. If one of your loved ones is hospitalized inform the hospital. If you don’t have one – ask for one at the hospital. The hospital usually staffs a notary.

That’s it. If you’re the documented point of contact you’ll be the person they call.

Probably a nurse. Don’t forget to say thank you.

Think you’ve got it? No. Not to alarm anyone, but no.
While everything is happening there’s a need to start planning for afterwards.

That is a different post. But just enough to think about. I wish for the best of health to everyone.

Update: After I wrote this I remembered the friends from high school who are nurses. The family on the east coast who are nurses. And friends here studying to become nurses. If you’re reading this nurse friends and family – thank you!

Finished typing the update above and I remembered my doctor friends. Oof! Are they going to be mad 🙂 You’re the uber decision makers. The thinkers. The drivers. I don’t even get to see you even though we’re friends. Thank you – to everyone – who provides care for those in need.


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