Nurse and writer Amanda Anderson describes the final moments of caring for a patient in the ICU in “Going Solo“.
Anderson opens the piece noting that she decides to scrub the patient’s teeth clean. Why do you think she’s determined to complete this simple act?
The author comments that this passing feels different than others because she doesn’t also have the patient’s family to nurse through the process. Her actions are per protocol, “governed only by a set of instructions:
1. Administer pain dose once, prior to extubation.
2. Extubate patient.
3. Administer pain dose every three minutes for respiratory rate greater than twenty,
or obvious signs of pain, as needed.
4. Notify house staff at time of asystole.”
How do you feel when you read through the protocol that Anderson follows? How do you think she feels and how does she convey that through her writing?
I appreciate Anderson’s candidness in immersing us in her thought process. She plays jazz for him, then realizes, what if he hates jazz? As medical providers, we only get a snippet of a patient’s life. If you’re a medical provider, have you ever wondered about a specific patient’s life outside of the hospital? How could that information inform their care? As a patient, what do you wish your medical providers knew about who you are?
Writing prompt: As a medical provider, think about a protocol you follow, a procedure or list of instructions you adhere to in a certain situation to provide care. List the steps. Now consider an unwritten protocol, such as a nurse in caring for family members throughout their loved one’s death in an ICU. List the steps. How do they compare? Alternatively, think about an encounter you’ve had in the medical world: a ten minute doctor’s office visit, visiting a friend who is hospitalized, getting or giving an immunization. Imagine the broader life of the person who was giving or getting that medical care. Consider their life narrative. Write for 10 minutes.