How many times have we been in complete shock by a beautiful outcome that seemed so hopeless in the beginning? At times, whether it’s dealing with a severely ill patient or a loved one who’s situation appears so far gone beyond repair, staying optimistic can seem impossible. As nurses, we try to do the opposite, comforting families and patients amidst trying periods and keeping hope alive. Patients especially take comfort in that, noticing our positive outlook and being influenced by it.
I can remember caring for a young woman diagnosed with a severe mental illness who frequently got admitted to the hospital. Over the course of several admissions, she would come in very sick, presenting as incredibly delusional and manic. Then after a few weeks, she would clear up. During those periods of clarity, I had the most amazing conversations with her. She talked about her dreams, aspiring to do so much with her life by helping others and using many God given talents. Her face would glow as those eyes showed a sincere appreciation for joyful living. Eventually, she would get discharged to dysfunction and stop taking medications. The last time she got admitted was the longest stay and the most unwell I’d ever seen her. One day, she walked up to me on the unit and felt down about the possibility of going to a state hospital. But what she said after that, saddened me to the core. This once bright-eyed ambitious patient, now told me she was crazy forever and would need to get used to the idea of living at a state hospital. I put my hands on her shoulders and very sternly told her not to give up and that I cared about her recovery as she would get better.
Though it took many weeks to get her back in action, thankfully she did recover and avoided going to the state hospital. While preparing for discharge to a more stable environment, she hugged and thanked me, uttering words I’ll never forget. She said “You know even though I was out of it, I remember what you said and thank you. I get it now, I really get it. I’m not going off my meds again.” The last I heard, she had gone back to school to pursue an associates degree in her field of interest and doing quite well. Sometimes showing patients we are confident, giving the boost they need during their recovery, can make the outcome so much brighter. It allows for empowerment but most of all it reinforces the will to get better through hope and faith.