A heartfelt thank-you to all the nurses of the world

A columnist expresses his gratitude for the "gatekeepers" of healthcare teams

Samuel Kirton avatar

by Samuel Kirton |

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Have you ever tried to explain to someone who has never experienced a rare disease how patients can develop lasting relationships with their care team? I have, and it’s often met with skepticism.

Many people see their physicians only once or twice a year. But that isn’t the case for an idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) patient. And in my experience, patients see their nurses even more than their doctors.

I have come to respect the nurses on my care team and view them as the gatekeepers of the team. I can reach out to a nurse coordinator with an issue or a question, and they will engage the correct members of the care team to resolve the matter.

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Changes over time

When I was diagnosed with IPF in January 2017, the nurses on my care team were assigned based on where the patients were on their journey. The intake nurse, the pre-transplant nurse, and the post-transplant nurse, for example, work with patients during their respective periods of the process.

In a column last year titled “Not all heroes wear capes,” I introduced readers to the three nurses who called me on the morning of July 9, 2021, to tell me they had a lung to offer me. I had worked with each of them during the 4.5 years I was a pre-transplant patient and in the years since my bilateral lung transplant.

Change is to be expected during many facets of our lives. This includes the composition of my care team. Since the photo in that column was taken, all three nurses have moved on to new roles. At this point, I feel it is necessary to assure you that their decisions were not because of me or any action on my part.

Each new role leverages their education and experience as nurses at Inova Fairfax Hospital’s Advanced Lung Disease and Transplant Center. While I certainly miss seeing them in the clinic, I am excited for their new opportunities for success.

Wait, there’s more

I don’t feel this way just about the nurses at this particular clinic, but about every nurse I encounter along my journey. Perhaps I’ve been fortunate, in which case I’m glad to be the exception.

As an adult, I’ve had three hospitalizations lasting at least a night. The first was for my lung transplant. The second was when I contracted pneumonia. And the third was when I had COVID-19. All occurred in the past two years.

After my lung transplant, my time was split between the cardiovascular intensive care unit and a step-down unit prior to discharge. The latter unit is where I went during my subsequent hospitalizations.

Many of the same nurses cared for me. I’ve seen nurses go from being under the oversight of a preceptor to being the charge nurse. Witnessing their professional growth has been a rewarding part of my experience as a patient under their care.

With all of my recent bronchoscopies, the interventional pulmonology unit nurses continue to provide the best care. Their care, especially during a recent rigid bronchoscopy, was important to my wife, Susan, and me. I had some difficulty while in recovery, and the professional and caring response from the nurses in the unit was very reassuring.

Why now

May is National Nurses Month. To mark the occasion, I’d like to share the first paragraph from that previous column I mentioned:

“You see them before and after you see a doctor. They are often the first person you see upon waking from anesthesia. They hold your hand during the difficult part of a procedure. They see you at your weakest state and help return you to health. Sadly, in some cases, they will be the last person to hold your hand. They are the angels who walk among us.”

Those words still ring true to me. I’m thankful for all the nurses in my life. They have made this journey better for me and all other pulmonary fibrosis patients and families under their care. They have helped me make every breath count.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


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