On Monday, I shared my reflections from that day and mentioned Janine, the OR nurse whose only focus was comforting me before my surgery. I was never able to thank Janine personally (I wish I could have written her a thank you note like I wrote to another medical professional who helped me greatly.) But just as that thank you note had a surprising effect on its recipient, my gratitude to Janine also rippled out in unexpected ways.
In my role as a patient educator with the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project, I recently met with a first year resident of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Women’s Health at Morristown Medical Center. She was open and honestly looking to learn how to be a better doctor. Initially, her questions centered on what she could do in her future career to effectively serve the whole patient. But, eventually, the conversation took an interesting turn.
Answering her question about how other medical professionals had helped me deal with the anxiety of surgery, I told her what Janine did for me and how much I appreciated it. She commented that, as a first year resident, she didn’t feel she could make that type of difference in a patient’s care. I told her it didn’t matter to me as a patient what her title was. What was important was how she ministered to my emotional needs and helped me face the anxieties and stresses of being in a surgical setting. I assured her that anyone could hold my hand, look me in the eyes and comfort me.
I can only characterize her response as an “Aha! moment.” She was truly inspired and heartened to learn that she could make a difference that very day in the experience of a patient. As she shared, “I learned that every person (even a lowly resident) can make a big difference in a patient’s life by having a humanitarian affect and approach.”
As cancer survivors, our experiences offer valuable feedback to the medical community. More important than feedback, however, is appreciation. I was never able to thank that OR nurse for what she did for me, but her compassion is now being paid forward by a first year resident.
Survival > Existence,