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- Making Good On Private Duty - 15/15 -
in the dreadful monotony of that one sick room, until we feel that we have been left out of the real nursing world, that we are stranded with our patient upon an island of pain, that there is no outlook but the one dread Valley, no moving object but the river of Death, and no hope for the life we are guarding. Each week we grow more and more rusty as to our hardly-won surgical technic, more out of touch with those who come and go to one patient after the other, and who not unnaturally count upon so and so many victories over the very enemy who we know will overcome the life we are fighting to save. Yet we realize that all our care will never bring victory, all our skill can but help to smooth the rugged pathway, down which the feet must tread alone. The endless repetition of the same symptoms is wearying, the only possible variation being some new pain, which indicates another stage in the development of the disease. An improvement hardly cheers us, as we know it is but temporary, and maybe followed by an exacerbation of the trouble.
Often the actual nursing calls but for a portion of the day, but that portion is so necessary that the nurse's presence is imperatively demanded. The remainder of the time little is to be done, except perhaps a guard maintained over the failing strength, a watch kept for untoward accidents that might snap the frail thread that binds the spirit still to earth. Probably the bedroom must be kept tidy, and the patient's clothing cared for, and the nurse feels she has degenerated into a servant.
One who has gone through with an experience like this, and who has courageously remained with her patient to the end, has passed through a training more severe than any she has had in her hospital life, and she has earned a new diploma.
There are some things which the nurse may do to lighten these dark days, some things which may help both herself and her patient, and these I will try to show.
_Firstly_, it is well to study your case from a pathological view point. Find out the heredity, the manner of the daily life, the first manifestation of the disease, what circumstances led to it, how it was treated, what success the treatment seemed to have, what symptoms can now be noted, what complications have shown themselves, and their influence on the original disease. A careful history could be written embracing all of these points, and as new symptoms appear they should be observed and noted. All this should be valuable and should help some future day to show some one who has but started on the dreaded pathway, how to avoid what will surely be a fatal disease. Many a valuable paper could be written in the long hours when the nurse feels she is losing her time, if she would intelligently study her case, and write the story of the disease, what led to it, and how it is being combated.
Perhaps, if it could be arranged, the nurse might be spared part of a day once or twice a week, and she could go to her hospital out patient department, or to some dispensary and do some work that carries a little feeling of success with it; work in a babies milk station, or almost any of the numerous charitable activities, would rest and refresh one who has for months been with the same patient.
_Secondly_, as a psychological study. We all know we must die, we feel that we talk to people every day who perhaps will not be alive a twelvemonth hence; but we are not actually certain that ourselves or any of our friends will so soon be dead, and we habitually act and speak as if we all were to live on indefinitely. So to be closely associated with some one who we know is drawing closer and closer to the life beyond the grave, is a very solemn thing; whether the sick one knows it or not, the nurse knows it, and such an one must be viewed with peculiar interest.
She is so near to knowing the great Mystery. She will so soon see those who have gone before. The present helplessness will so marvelously become Life Everlasting. It seems, as the end comes nearer, and yet more near, as if, perhaps, one could send a message to some of our own loved ones gone on before, "If you see some of my dear ones, on that other shore, bear them a loving greeting from me, tell them I am trying to live as they would have me live." Such a thought trembles on the tongue, so near does the unseen seem to come to us.
In the face of these things, how small do the thoughts of our own dignity seem. It is all _service_, and service is what we were made for.
"I pass this way but once, if, therefore, there is _any_ service I can perform for my fellow man let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again." This quotation is familiar to all, and especially does it come to mind when we minister to those who are to die. When they are gone there will be no bringing them back to explain duties slighted or left undone. "We pass this way but once."
_Thirdly_, from a religious point of view. It is quite impossible to say, what exactly is the nurse's duty as regards the religious side of her ministration, though the wish to help must be often in the mind of every thoughtful nurse who has charge of an incurable case.
The patient may not know her condition, and the doctor may not wish her to be told, then, of course, the nurse's lips must be sealed, as to any allusion to the dread truth. The religious views of the patient and her friends may be different from anything that the nurse knows, or perhaps the family pastor comes frequently, and instructs and comforts the sick one, and the family.
A patient will sometimes _ask_ for the reading of some portion of the Bible, and unless the part is specified the nurse may be at a loss just where to turn. Some parts of the Scriptures are so generally known and accepted, that they can hardly fail to give hope and comfort, no matter what the religious teaching may have been heretofore.
I will suggest then _in case_ readings are asked for. The Psalms are full of beautiful comforting thoughts and prayers. The 23d has helped many a poor soul about to take its last journey, the 37th, which begins "Fret not thyself," shows that those are truly blessed who trust in the Lord, the 51st, "Have mercy upon me, O God," teaches repentance, the 42d, "As the hart pants after the water-brooks, so longeth my soul for Thee, O God," shows the desire of the soul for God.
In the New Testament, the 14th chapter of St. John's gospel is a universal favorite, on account of its comforting thoughts "In my Father's house are many mansions." In St. Luke's gospel chapter 15th, verse 11, we have the parable of the Prodigal Son, to show how complete and perfect is God's love, and His forgiveness, when sin is forsaken. In 1st Corinthians, 15th chapter, verse 20, we have a masterly argument for the resurrection from the dead, and a life beyond the grave. In Revelations, 14th chapter, 13th verse, is a very comforting thought for those who have led a strenuous life and are in much suffering.
These few references will help, I hope, if any nurse is called upon to read the Bible, and she feels a little nonplussed as to exactly where to turn.
There are of course innumerable passages besides these, that could be found by the aid of a concordance, and which it would be wise to note on a slip of paper, ready for any call. Sometimes a patient will ask for a prayer, and it is not often that a nurse would feel competent to kneel down by the bedside and make an acceptable extemporaneous prayer, so I would suggest buying a volume of "Prayers for the Sick."
Very tiny, dainty little books can be purchased at the church book stores, full of these prayers.
In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer are many helpful prayers.
The sentence, the collect, and the whole of the Easter service in this book are radiant with the truths of the Resurrection, and the Easter hymns are tuned to the same inspiring theme.
This last thought I leave with you. What more helpful consideration can come to a weary nurse, than that the sick one to whom she has ministered for so many weeks or months should at last, on entering in to the life Eternal, lay before the Lord of Glory, the name of the one who was with her, who helped her, who cared for her, and who was faithful to her trust to the end?
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