Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nurses Are Tough Patient-Advocates…Always

When I think of the list of virtues that I often attribute to nurses, two always come to mind: tough and nearly indestructible.

Nurses are some of the strongest people I know. The stories I’ve heard of personal and professional perseverance are truly remarkable. Whether it’s on-the-job moxie or personal chutzpah, nurses always seem to come through when the going gets tough. They are the kind of folks that you can count on. When they say they’ll do something, they mean it, and you know they’ll follow through.

Nurses stay true to their professional ideals and maintain their advocacy for patients – even when it looks as though they are no longer able.

I have found this to be especially true when it comes to a friend and veteran nurse I’ve known for many years.

Jean, as I’ll call her, graduated from a three-year program nearly 50 years ago and has worked most of her life. In addition to raising three children on her own (she has a pack of wonderful grandkids as testament to the great job she did), Jean earned a bachelor’s degree and worked in many areas of medicine – hospitals, physicians’ offices and clinics. She was instrumental in founding a free cancer consulting service (patients obtain a second opinion from a panel of experts for free), and worked among the poor in more than one city.

When we recently visited, I received disturbing news: Jean has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). She made light of it, but it was difficult for me to feel the same. Receiving the news was like being hit by a truck, so I just listened.

A diagnosis of MCI, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills. With Jean, the symptoms are apparent enough that people close to her noticed. And she’s all too aware of them herself.

It was difficult for me to not speed ahead and think about what might happen in Jean’s future. Not everyone with MCI progresses to dementia, and some even improve, but a person with MCI has an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or another dementia.

Jean apparently isn’t waiting around to see what happens next.

She immediately signed up for a study at a large medical center in her city that is investigating MCI. The day we met, Jean had just come from getting an MRI, which is being done every three months to closely watch the changes in her brain. I suggested that she must be the study’s “poster child” because she is so bright, engaging and cooperative.

“I am!” she confirmed. “I feel like I’m really doing something because I can help others by doing this.”

Even as a patient with an unsettling diagnosis, she is showing her true strength as she helps and inspires others.

Thank you, Jean, and all the nurses like you.

Do you know any nurses who are particularly inspirational and have become role models for others?

Tell us about them.

1 comment:

Jackie said...

And patient....IMO, in order to be a great nurse, you need to be patient...not always easy in the many situations that we face.