After almost 30 years of nursing and a suggestion by someone I dearly respect, I decided to blog for Nurses Week. First, a little history. Truth be told, I was never someone who dreamed of being a nurse as a little girl. It just never entered my mind. I graduated with a dual degree in biology and medical technology and after only 6 months knew I was not happy with my career choice. I knew I liked medicine but needed interaction with patients and the ability to provide care for them. I thought about many options when a friend suggested nursing.

After thinking about it, the profession seemed like the right decision to make, and I decided to begin an accelerated BSN program. I have never once regretted the decision. My nursing experience has included cardiothoracic post op care, ICU, ambulatory care, utilization review, general and orthopedic surgery, ambulatory surgery – and most recently – clinical research. What I tried to give to my patients every shift I worked was safe, compassionate and good quality care.

Florence Nightingale was our first patient advocate and someone I hoped to emulate. I met some amazing patients during those many years, many I still stay in touch with today. They changed my life immensely and made me want to be more caring and compassionate than ever. I was a stickler for doing things the right way and always questioning orders I didn’t understand and did not do something just because I was told.

I have a wonderful husband and two daughters, who I hoped if they ever needed the health care system, would be fortunate enough to find health care workers who still felt the way I did. All that changed almost 2 years ago. My husband of 25 years was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic prostate cancer.

Within seconds, life as I knew it ceased to exist. My husband and I made a pact that day that he would never go for a visit or any treatment without me. We would be a team in his illness like we had been in our marriage. I continued to work, and although I had always provided compassionate care, I now tried even harder because I knew what my patients and their families were going through personally.

After much research, we began traveling to a cancer center in Houston, Texas, for care. Things were somewhat smooth with the usual ups and downs associated with cancer. Then things started to crash. About 4 months ago he became very ill and almost died. I pulled myself together and got him to the cancer center almost 1,000 miles away. He was in disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) as a result of metastasis to his liver and bone marrow. If they had not gotten things under control he may have died.

I quit my current job and took on my most important job with my most important patient ever. I learned how to use central lines, and how to administer IV fluids and medications at home. Once he stabilized, we came home to continue with the treatment that Houston had designed. I did dressing changes weekly and flushed his catheter nightly. I checked every chemo agent that was administered and every outpatient medication that was dispensed. There were multiple errors that I identified within the first couple of weeks at home. The unbelievable compassion, communication, empathy and teaching we received at the cancer center were lost when we came home to our local hospital.

We wanted a shared decision making process and knew that although I had always been an advocate and a navigator of the health care system for friends and family, it was now the most important mission on my agenda after caring for my husband. The health care system is complex and sometimes broken. Patients and families need to be involved within the hospital to help physicians know what patients want.

No one truly knows what it is like until you have experienced something like we have. Until that time, I can only hope that everyone has an advocate or navigator to help them. I know that for my husband I will never give up and will ask questions until I am convinced it is the right thing to do, and if I don’t agree, I will get another opinion.

As I said, I am taking care of my most important patient ever. I have never been more proud to be a nurse, and wish all of my fellow nurses a very happy Nurses Week. Keep fighting for what you know is right and don’t ever give up or be beaten down. Someone’s life is at stake.

—–

Sherri Loeb, RN, BSN
Patient Advocate/Navigator