It was a busy day in the emergency room. I could hardly keep up with the new admissions. It was a cold winter day and it seemed everyone was coming to the ER for any comfort. My next patient to be processed was an elderly man in his 80s. He was brought to ER in the filth of his own urine and in a drunken state. My job was to get him admitted for his confused state and alcohol treatment. I didn't have additional information about the elderly patient. I approached the patient. I needed information from the patient about what lead him to come to the hospital. The patient was intoxicated, confused and had a difficulty recognizing the reality of his surroundings. He couldn't and would not answer my questions. I was frustrated with the patient and increasingly became impatient for not being able to complete my work. He seemed just another intoxicated patient in the ER. He kept repeating how cold he was, and he just wanted to sleep.
Lezli approached me and reminded me that the patient just needed to be cared for and I needed to help him be comfortable. She cleaned his physical mess. Covered his body with warm blankets. She asked me to just order medication to help him rest and sleep. Lezli told me that his wife recently died. He was living alone and the only thing he knew to do was numb his physical and mental agony by drinking alcohol. Initially, I resisted Lezli's recommendation. She again reminded me that the patient needed to rest first. I saw Lezli kindly covering him with the warm blanket, tucking the ends to cover every bit of his man's body. She fluffed his pillow to rest his head. I saw the unkempt patient transformed into a baby-like physical body lying in his fetal position. It was obvious that the elderly man had not had a gentle touch in a long time. I initiated the appropriate alcohol treatment protocol. Lezli administered medication to calm his nerves and to hydrate his body. I later completed the admission process.
The incident reminded me of the reason I became a nurse. This man was dismissed by many, including me. We were all too busy to take time with a smelly and drunken old man. Lezli reminded me of the essence of my role. In the current state of our health care, we can easily forget our role and get in the mind of just getting our work done. Especially in the ER, it is hard to take a few minutes with our patients. Lezli brought me down to earth and helped me to just care for the patient when they are in need. She did it with a gentle reminder, showing me how physical touch and a caring attitude can make a difference in our patients’ distress. This moment is forever etched in my mind and heart.