A Nurse’s Hands

Not long ago I was out at the mall with my son when we passed by a mall kiosk. I was in kind of hurry so I looked down and tried not to make eye contact. It was clear out of my peripheral vision the woman was trying to get my attention. Before I knew it, she waved to my son. Shoot I’m done for now, I thought. I was right, my sweet boy will say hello and talk to just about anyone. He has been this way all of his life. At 3 years old he proudly yelled in Starbucks after a nice older man held open the trash can lid for him, “See mom! Stranger dangers are NICE!” True story and today was no different. The woman asked my son if he was enjoying his summer and I could see she was holding a bottle of luxury hand lotion. Once he was finished giving her a detailed account of his summer, she quickly made eye contact with me and asked if I was interested in trying the lotion, for free, of course. I felt obligated at this point seeing as her and my son were now besties, so I obliged.  

As she began to massage my hands with the thick cream that smelled of lemon and green tea from the $25 a bottle lotion she held, she made a face. “Your hands are very dry! What do you do for a living?” “I’m a nurse,” I answered. She nodded, “That explains it.”

Often unpolished, dry, and cracked from constant handwashing a nurse’s hands are vital to perform an array of tasks. It is a physical and very hands on trade.  A nurse’s hands hold steady as we inject a vaccine into a squirming toddler with gentleness and accuracy.  Hands that guide our stethoscopes over the hearts of babies and the elderly alike. With these hands we squeeze the bulb of a sphygmomanometer to get a precise blood pressure reading on a patient with a splitting headache.  Our hands pass out lifesaving medications, dress wounds, remove stitches, and apply oxygen masks. Our hands have seen more bodily fluid then one would like to admit. These hands have applied pressure to stop bleeds and held urgent lab reports. Hands that cramp up at the keyboard from the massive amount of documentation required and hands that administer chest compressions 2 inches deep during CPR, desperately trying to save a life.

Anyone who has been to a doctor’s office or hospital has witnessed a nurse performing one or all of these tasks, but our hands can tell you stories far more than what meets the eye.

These same hands that perform lifesaving tasks do much more than you will ever learn in nursing school. You see these hands have held a sick child rocking them to sleep when their parents couldn’t be with them. These hands have held the hands of the dying and embraced mourning family members. These hands have brushed the hair of those who could not do so themselves and patiently fed those who could no longer hold a fork. These hands have held story books and played peek a boo trying to make a child smile.

These hands have held the salty tears from our eyes after particularly hard shifts and have been clasped together tightly as we fall on our knees and cry out in prayer for our patients.

I don’t ever expect to be remembered by my patients but if I am, I hope it is for these things and not the skills that are required of me.

I left the mall that day with a bottle of expensive new hand lotion and a smile on my face. At least I know the next time I hold the hand of a patient I will have the softest hands they will have ever held, or at least that’s what the saleswoman told me.

I would love to hear from you! What are some things you hope to be remembered for by your patients?