This story concerns an ancient emergency department that had fallen upon hard times.
It was once part of a great hospital, but because of high workloads, poor morale and short staffing levels, its reputation was lost.
There were only five nurses now left in the whole place: the unit manager and four nurses (all over sixty years in age).
Clearly, their once strong nursing community was dying.
In the deep woods surrounding the hospital there was a little hut that a wise old professor of neuro-biology occasionally used to get away for some quiet contemplation.
The old nurses still had a well developed ‘gut instinct’ so they could always sense when the prof was in his hut.
One day it occurred to the unit manager that a visit the prof might result in some useful advice to save her department.
The professor welcomed the unit manager to his hut with excellent coffee and chocolate muffins.
But when the nurse explained the reason for her visit, all the prof could say was, “I know how it is” . “The spirit has gone out of the nurses. It is the same in my own town. Almost no one is interested in their problems any more.”
So the old charge nurse and the old prof wept together. Then they sat quietly and spoke of deep things.
When the nurse had to leave, they embraced each other.
“It has been a wonderful that we should finally meet after all these years,” the nurse said, “but I have failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me that would help me save my dying department?”
“No, I am sorry,” the professor responded. “I have no advice to give. But, I can tell you this …..that one of you is going to become a truly great nurse and change the face of your profession.”
When the charge nurse returned to the hospital her fellow nurses gathered around her to ask, “Well what did the wise old professor say?”
“Well…..the prof said something very mysterious, it was something cryptic. He said that one of us was going to change the face our profession. I don’t know what he meant.”
In the time that followed, the old nurses wondered as to the significance of the professors words.
Change our profession? Could he possibly have meant one of us nurses?
If so, which one?
Do you suppose he meant the charge nurse?
Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant the oldest and most senior nurse. She has been a leader in this department for more than a generation.
On the other hand, he might have meant Cathy. Certainly Cathy is a great nurse.
And everyone knows that David is a man of great knowledge and nursing wisdom. Certainly he could not have meant David!
Julie gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though she is a thorn in people’s sides, when you look back on it, Julie has always given the best patient care. Maybe the prof did mean Julie.
But surely not Heather? Heather is so quiet, a real introvert. But then again, almost mysteriously, she has a gift for always being there when you need her. She just magically appears whenever the shit hits the fan.
Maybe Heather is about to change our profession.
But of course the prof didn’t mean me. He couldn’t possibly have meant me. I’m just an ordinary bedside nurse.
Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am about to change our profession?
As they contemplated, the old nurses began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the chance that one among them might be the one to change the nursing profession.
Not only that, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.
Patients still occasionally came to the Emergency Department set within this beautiful forest. To treat their colds and mend their wounds.
As they did so, they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect and compassion that began to surround the five old nurses. It seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the entire atmosphere of the place.
There was something strangely compelling, about it. Word got around, and more nurses came to see if it was true.
They brought their nursing friends to this special place. And their friends brought their friends.
Then some of the younger doctors who came to work in the department started to talk more and more with the old nurses. They too, began to treat each other with more respect. Then another, and another.
So within a few years the emergency department had once again become part of a thriving hospital and, thanks to the professor’s gift, a vibrant centre of excellence, that provided a deep and sustained healing in the realm.
And slowly, these nurses changed our profession. And the world.
[this is a slightly, um….modified version of a story that has been around for a long long time. Original author unknown.]
Featured image via: Jay Mantri