Is there anything more important than your health? Wishes, goals, and desires quickly
fade when faced with one form or another of debilitating health issues crash into our life.
The enemy may be disguised as non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cerebrovascular, respiratory, and diabetes; or a communicable scourge like COVID-19, Ebola, HIV, smallpox,
Whatever the case, the best way we have to fight disease is EDUCATION. As a nurse who specializes in resuscitation performance, I have saved many lives from cardiac arrest, but I have also literally saved many lives through education, by sharing my knowledge of health science.
It is a gift to be a healthcare provider and to learn, decipher, and distribute health information. The ultimate nursing challenge is empowering yourself, friends, family, and patients to take responsibility for self-health. The old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can't force him to drink is the challenge we run up against in preventive medicine every day. I am certain each of us has educated someone a "million times" without a change happening. What is it that finally makes someone choose to change? Do the moon and the stars align? Is the barometric pressure just so, or do they reach a point of misery within themselves so bad that they decide to choose health? The process can be maddening, watching people treat their bodies as if they get a new one someday.
But you have to KNOW what is healthy in order to DO what is healthy.
A patient stopped in to see me complaining about his blood glucose running higher than usual and feeling sick as a result. He stated he and his wife had watched his sugar consumption closely. When asked to describe what he ate yesterday, he began: oatmeal for breakfast, fries at lunch, mashed potatoes for dinner, and popcorn nightly before bed. No sugar right? This patient (and his wife) had never been personally educated on diet and glucose production in any way except to reduce refined sugar intake. The "rescue" was a gentle conversation between myself and this family about simple carbohydrates and explaining that even though french fries and mashed potatoes don't have sugar, they can be deadly to diabetics.
Health literacy is a constant and complex imperative. Nurses play an important role in "rescuing" their patients from health illiteracy and the ravishes of chronic disease. The trick seems to be to say the right thing at the right time in a way our patients can understand.
Let's also rescue ourselves from ignoring what we know makes us as nurses healthier and stronger. Talk to yourself with as much kindness and attentiveness as you show your patients.
Take good care,
Dr. Susan Davis, Rescue RN