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5 Short Nursing Stories from Nurse Beth

5 Short Stories from Nurse Beth

5 Short Nursing Stories from Nurse Beth

There are nursing stories you just can’t make up, and patients you never, ever forget. This time of year, I think back and remember some of those unforgettable patients. Here’s just a few of many.

5 Short Nursing Stories from Nurse Beth: Manuel

There was a Spanish only speaking patient without insurance who was about to be discharged with a new diagnosis of diabetes. He was a migrant worker in the grape fields, and along with his wife Maria, had three small children. There was a rush to send him home and a push for the bed, but something was really bothering me.

He had no glucometer machine to test himself with. I saw many other patients sent home with follow-up care and equipment. I knew what diabetes would do to his body if he didn’t get care and didn’t understand his condition.

We were letting him down. The worst part was he trusted us. I was his discharge nurse.

5 Short Stories from Nurse Beth

I got on the phone and did not stop until a glucometer was delivered to the bedside for home use. I taught Manuel and wife how to use it and demonstrated how to give injections. I delayed his stay until lunchtime and made him use the machine and administer his own insulin.

I will never, ever forget the look of gratitude on their faces when it was finally time to say good-bye at discharge. A look that did not need translation. Later that summer, he delivered a huge crate full of fresh red grapes to the floor.

5 Short Stories from Nurse Beth: Dr. McSurgeon

Dr. McSurgeon ordered that his patient’s room temperature be kept at 78 degrees. The patient’s hand was swathed in a bulky dressing and elevated from an IV pole. I hated stepping into the room because it was too hot for me, and there was a cloying, sweet, sickish smell. What was that smell? Not the smell of infection, but something I didn’t recognize.

The third day post-op Dr. McSurgeon and I went to the room to change the dressing. He carefully unwrapped the surgical dressing and I glimpsed something black. More black things. Black wriggling things !

“Leeches” he announced (enjoying my shock). “They promote venous return” he went on cheerfully.

All I could think was “Yes, but could you have told me?”

5 Short Stories from Nurse Beth: Linda

My patient that long night was a 38 year old woman who had died the night before. Linda had suffered a massive stroke while sitting on the toilet in her bathroom at home. There were no warning signs, no headaches, nothing. It was a congenital circulatory brain defect, and she had been a ticking time bomb all her life without knowing it.

Her husband and two pre-teen age girls were in the ICU when I came on duty. Her body was being kept on life support to harvest her organs for donation.

I dreaded having to bear witness to their grief and I also knew it was a privilege and responsibility to be one of the last persons to care for their wife and mother. I had never managed a patient who was declared dead but being kept alive.

I showed the utmost care and respect as a gift to the girls and their Dad. I combed Linda’s hair and turned her with pillows for support, as if positioning for comfort, all the while monitoring her to keep her organs stable for harvest. It was an unforgettable experience to care for this un-alive but being-kept-alive woman.

I called a friend in Nutritional Services and got hot chocolate for the girls. I made fresh coffee for Dad and made several packets of kleenex available so they wouldn’t have to ask.

The girls cried, and Dad kept it together, at least in front of me. But I could hardly bear to look into his eyes. Sometime during my shift, they said their good byes and thanked me. It’s been years, but I think of them from time to time and wonder how they are doing.  Maybe they think of me, too.

5 Short Stories from Nurse Beth: Angie

She was very small in the middle of hospital bed, and covered with gauze dressings. She looked like a mummy with only her face peeking out from the head dressing. Only twenty-two years old, she had been in a horrific motorcycle accident with her boyfriend.

I cringed to hear in report that the handlebars had impaled her pelvis, causing permanent damage to her organs. She had one child but would never have any more children. She was in the hospital for months.

Traumatized, I went home and told my children they were forbidden to ever ride on a motorcycle.

Years passed and my daughter asked me to help out her best friend, Ashley. Ashley was like an adopted daughter to us in many ways. Her grandmother and aunts had raised her. Her mother had some kind of serious medical and emotional problems and was in and out of Ashley’s life. Despite a difficult life, Ashley was setting goals and attending college.

At the time, Ashley was helping to care for her mother, who needed IV antibiotics at home for a urinary tract infection. For some reason involving insurance, Ashley had been trained to give the antibiotics without much support and was having trouble with the implanted tunneled catheter.

I went over to take a look and started talking to the woman, wondering why she was bedridden and  had so many medical problems.

“Years ago, I had a serious motorcycle accident..” All of a sudden, it flashed. “Were you in St. Mary’s hospital?”


“I was one of your nurses”.

She didn’t recognize me but we both looked at our two daughters, best friends, in the same room and marveled at the coincidence.

5 Short Stories from Nurse Beth: Mrs. Brentwood

A retired fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Brentwood had undergone a total hip replacement and was having an uneventful recovery, including rest and Physical Therapy. Laying in bed, she clung to her remote and constantly watched TV. She preferred the shopping channels and watched them late into the night. Looking back, she wasn’t sleeping much, but she was very quiet.

One day her daughter called from far away in Texas.

‘How’s my mother doing?”

Fine, she’s recovering without any complications”

“Well, is she on her meds?”

What meds are those?”

“Medications for her bipolar disorder. She’s on them, right? Because my sister and I have been getting packages from Tiffany and QVC. All kinds of jewelery and yesterday a refrigerator! We’re worried that my mother’s in a manic phase right now”

Needless to say, her doctor was called and she was placed back on her medications. This may have been why medication reconciliation became a thing.

More unforgettable stories:

8 Things to Say When your  Patient is Dying

A Wedding on Med-Surg

The Fatal Spider Bite

Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth

Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth  career column at for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question :) 

About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

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