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A Letter to My Emergency Department Patient

Dear Patient:

I wanted to write a letter to explain so many things that I feel when I am working a shift in the emergency department.

As your nurse, I want to explain what it is that I am thinking and feeling when I take care of you. I want to explain so that you understand why I make certain decisions regarding your care.

 I want to tell you the things that I am not supposed to tell you as your nurse.

I want you to know that I don't want you to wait one minute in the waiting room. But the truth is you probably will wait. Either you will wait for a room, or a bed, or a medication, or to go to the bathroom, or to get admitted upstairs. Or you could wait for a few of these things. But this isn't because I want you to wait. I don't want you to have any pain, or have anything to be afraid of, or have any uncertainties.

I don't want you to be placed in the hallway either. Please understand that the reason I am placing you in a hallway stretcher is because another patient is sick with something that requires that he is placed in a room. I know this is an excuse to you. If I were you or you were my family member I would be furious that you were placed somewhere with little privacy.

I want you to know that if I leave the room suddenly when you are telling me about your symptoms it is because I need the doctor to know what you are telling me about how you have been feeling. I leave the room suddenly because I am concerned. I am not trying to be rude and I am not trying to cut you off when you are trying to say something.

I am sorry that you might have to wait to use the bathroom. I promise you that I couldn't get in your room one second faster. No one should have to wait to use the bathroom, and no one should have to even ask.

I want you to know that yes, I am busy, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been stressed out that I haven't been back in to see you sooner. So, yes, I am busy. But I still care about you.

I want you to know that I will cry later. I will cry because I am frustrated for you and because my heart breaks when I see you in any pain. I became a nurse to help my patients have no pain and no fears.

I will cry because I know that you are sitting on that stretcher wondering what it is that is wrong.  Because you know something is wrong. And I want to help you find those answers so you don't have to be scared anymore. The guilt that I feel consumes me at times, and I will cry because it is the only way I know how to deal with this guilt.

I wish I could do better for you. I wish I could help calm your nerves and answer your questions. I wish I could sit down next to you and hear all about your fears and help you rid yourself of some of those fears. I wish I could learn more about you.

Most importantly I want you to know this:

I love when you challenge my knowledge and my skills. It makes me do better for you. I became a nurse to fight for you, not with you. I am on your side. You are the reason I became a nurse. You are the reason I remain a nurse. You are the reason I love to be a nurse.


Your Emergency Department Nurse

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Thank you for your letter. It is beautifully written. Who among us hasn't wished for much of the same things? We want to be able to spend more time with our patients and cherish the snippets that we manage to get. We care so much that we do cry sometimes. We try really hard at what we do every day. Sometimes we leave knowing that we've saved a life, or salvaged hope. It is all worth while.

Joyce May 08, 2014

This is so beautiful. The words are a reflection of how many of us feel but never stop our daily nursing duties to put our feelings on paper. Thank You.

Anne  Gifford,  RNMay 08, 2014
Fort Worth, TX


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