Nurse experiences bla bla emergency care

Beth Wilson has been a nurse for 33 years. She received her degree from the University of North Carolina and worked for six years at the University Hospital in Chapel Hill before moving to Atlanta in 1987.

She has worked at Northside Hospital for the past 28 years. During her career, she’s worked in med-surg, open heart step-down, ICU, post anesthesia care and for the past 18 years she’s worked in the Pain and Spine Treatment Center.

A few years ago, Wilson exchanged her hospital scrubs for a patient’s gown when she became so ill, she spent almost a month in the hospital.

Wilson recalls, “[I] developed severe pain and a fever over a week’s time. I was transferred to Northside Hospital by ambulance to the ER. I was then transferred to ICU.”

“So began my almost one month stay which included 14 surgeries, tube feedings through my nose and my PICU line, three wound vacs, two blood transfusions, emergent intubations, and isolation precautions.”

Wilson was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis from MRSA and despite her nurse’s precise recall of procedures, she says that she has very little memory of her first ten days in the hospital.

One thing Wilson does remember…it is not easy to be a patient when you are a nurse.

She says, “It is very humbling to be a patient when you are a nurse. It is not in a nurse’s personality to lose control of a situation. When you are a patient, you have NO control, especially when you are desperately ill and relying on others to help you make it through to the next day.”

Wilson found herself doing things like hesitating to push the call button, because as a nurse, she was aware of how busy the nurses were. In fact, she says that when she was transferred from ICU to sub-ICU, it was surreal because she had personally worked that unit for seven years. Suddenly she was the patient. A very sick patient.

On the other hand, Wilson found that it was also helpful to have a nurse’s background. She says, “You have an understanding of the process of things. When you work in the same hospital for as long as I have, you get to know a lot of people. It is very comforting to have a familiar face come into the room to do PT or start an IV. I was blessed to have two outstanding doctors who saved my life, Dr. Sam Webster, my infectious disease doctor and Dr. Jarrett Moss with whom I worked daily in the pain clinic. He worked with the acute pain nurses to try to control my excruciating pain. I always felt safe when they would walk through the door.”

Being a patient also gave Wilson a clearer understanding of what it is like to be the one in the hospital bed. She says, “I have always considered myself to be a very compassionate nurse, but after you have experienced what patients go through, that compassion doubles.”

Wilson more readily relates to her patients in pain because she has experienced debilitating pain. She feels she understands what it is like on a deeper level and she wants to show her patients that there is life after pain.

She also had some insights into caring for the patient’s family as well. She says, “The night of my first surgery, my family was told that I only had a 50-50 chance of survival. It was a very casual comment, but it really devastated my family. I am more careful about what I say and how it might be perceived by my patient and their family members.”

Despite the severity of her illness and the fact that life was indeed tenuous for Wilson at the time, she has come out on the other side with an amazing attitude.

She says, “I always believe that when we walk through the dark days of our life, once we finally come into the light again, we can look back and see where our blessings were. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am a better nurse for having been a patient.”