My first job as a nurse I worked with another nurse who I could only strive to be like professionally. Her goals were big, her knowledge was packed tight and utilized on a split second moment by moment basis when critical thinking skills were in need of making assessments.
Her eye saw things on a patient that went above and beyond our basic assessment skills we were taught in nursing school. Her documentation was written with medical verbage I still struggle to know to this day.
She was born to be a nurse. Standing next to her, I was the one posing as a nurse.
One night she walked into our employee room/break room and said that her patient wanted another nurse. The other nurse in the room started to stand and as she did, my heroine said, "No, Ronda,should go."
I got up the and went into the patient's room. A white woman, not much older than me, looking like she had been "rode hard and hung up wet" lay in her bed. When she saw me come in she said,"It's not that I don't think she's a nice person, bit I don't want a black nurse."
When I assured her that her nurse was the better nurse and the one she really needed, she was adament, and wouldn't change her mind.
In that moment I was at a crossroads. My heroine or the patient?
The patient was clealry in the wrong. I had no doubt she was wrong and bitter and fearful of someone a different color than her for God only knows what reasons.
There were no other white nurses on the floor that night that I recall.
As a nurse, my duty was to the patient first.
My heart was for my heroine though.
I could hardly look her in the eye when I walked back into the break room. The sadness I felt,and the hurt I saw in her eyes made me want to walk away from the floor that night. For good.
My job is to take care of the people in their illnesses. Even when their greatest illness may be bigotry.
I only took care of the patient for the remaining hours of that shift. I heard a few weeks later she had died.
Are my actions or lack of action what added fuel to the flame that has sparked the movement of hate and anger right now?
I pray not.
Our choices aren't always easy choices. Or our best choices. Sometimes not even near a good choice. The consequences of what I did versus what might have happened if I handled it differently taunt me. Especially today.
If I could do it again I hope I would handle it differently. My inexperience may only be my excuse, along with my excuse that a nurse takes care of her patient no matter the illness.
Would my stand for my heroine that night have results that could have helped not only the patient but the rest of us caught in this trap of doing the "right" thing but not sure what the right thing is to do.
I won't ever know. I just know I hope my heroine knows...I wish I had the chance to do it again.