Monday, November 26, 2007

In memory of J.L. 1927-2007

NewFNP hasn't had a patient die since she was in training.

Today she received news of her first patient death. She got a phone call from the funeral home, letting her know that her 80-year old patient with cor pulmonale had died over the Thanksgiving weekend and would she sign the death certificate? Alas, as an NP, she cannot but her MD co-worker would.

He died at home in his sleep on Saturday. On Friday evening, he told his son that he thought he should come on in to the clinic the next morning. His son found him the next morning, "cold" in his bed. This same son came to clinic today just to stop by and thank you to newFNP for the care she had provided. It was incredibly touching.

NewFNP often felt as though she hadn't done much to help this old gentleman. Sure, she wrote his O2 and furosemide prescriptions and closely followed him and his lower extremity edema. But what newFNP remembers most about her appointments with this guy and his son, totalling maybe five over the past year or so, was that she smiled when she walked in the room because he was easy to smile at, that she answered his questions when he had them, that she sent him to the ED at the right time early on in his care at newFNP's clinic. He joked with newFNP with the ease that only elderly men have with far younger women: playful yet appropriate, full of vibrancy and mischief.

NewFNP doesn't spend a lot of time reflecting on her role in her patients' personal histories, but she very much is. The manner in which she cared for this patient exemplifies how she wants to practice with all of her patients. While it is perhaps an unattainable goal in her current place of employment - given systems failures that are far beyond her control and her own variable capacity to control her frustrations - she would like for all of her patients to leave their encounters feeling cared for.

After all, there are many ways in which to care for one's heart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. An elderly relative and an elderly friend of mine died over the weekend. Each lived life fully, and I will miss them. One got excellent medical care (probably, in part, because he was well to do) and the other, frustrated with the MDs who tested her for umpteen different things all the while saying that they probably couldn't do anything to help her once they actually found out what was causing her weird symptoms, decided not to go back. She died at home lighting a second cigarette after her usual Sunday night steakhouse dinner with a friend. Way to go. Thanks to you and others who I hope will help me live to a ripe old age, too.