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When a director of nursing becomes the patient

December 15, 2010
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On November 30, I found myself in a hospital bed with chest pain and shortness of breath. I was not allowed to get up on my own, I had no decisions as to when I would eat, sleep, or bathe, and to my dismay, I also was required to use a bed pan to relieve myself. An aide or nurse would wipe my backside and undress me in front of whoever was within eyeshot. What a humiliating and humbling position to be in.

For three days this was my fate. As my patience wore thin, I thought of our residents who are subjected to this type of treatment on a daily basis, for the rest of their lives. It was a sad and depressing realization.

I soon was able to relate to the resident who hits, spits, curses, and refuses to do what is asked of them. As I tried to be nice and sweet, I soon found that it was much easier if the caregiver assigned to me was thoughtful and caring. I had to experience both types and cringed at shift change when I would get someone new. I only endured this for three days and don’t ever care to do it again.

Don’t get me wrong; I had some wonderful, compassionate nurses—but I also had the opposite. I encourage you to remind yourselves and your staff that even though this is a job for us, it is life for our residents. Even when we don’t feel like being kind or friendly, we must remember that for their sake, we have to be considerate. I know that our staffs do the same thing over and over, day after day, but for the resident it is their bodies, their hearts, and their lives. I certainly hope that you will not be put in the spot that I was—trading places—but I am most thankful for the kind and caring staff that made my life easier in this time.

Compassion and caring are not options—they are requirements, to give quality care above and beyond the call of duty.

Author Frieda Stewart, RN, is the Director of Nursing at Corn Heritage Village in Corn, Oklahoma; the owner and CEO of VitalAttitudes, LLC; and a public speaker who travels all across the United States.

Frieda Stewart


Author Frieda Stewart, RN, is the Director of Nursing at Corn Heritage Village in Corn, Oklahoma...



Frieda, this was an excellent post and should be a must read for all caregivers. Many years ago, when I was training to become an "orderly", they had us spend a few hours in a wheelchair. The experience has remained with me for all these years (that was over 30 years ago!) and has served to shape my approach with patients.

While your experience may not have been the most comfortable or enjoyable one, I am positive that it will make you a much better caregiver in the future. Thanks for sharing-it was well worth the read.