My last feature article was centered on the famous quote, “to cure sometimes, relieve often, care always.” That quotation has always been a centering force for me both as a nurse and as a healthcare leader. It is a powerful reminder of why many of us choose healthcare careers. We care about others and want to do our best to cure and relieve, but the driving force is that we care–often deeply. There are times, however, when the condition or injury is far beyond the scope of modern medicine. When cure is impossible and relief is elusive, what always remains is our ability to care. Today, I face one of those times. My father is in hospice and is resting peacefully as he drifts through his final hours. I wait and care. The nurses reposition, soothe, medicate, and care. The chaplain prays, soothes, and cares. My brothers and sisters and mother gather, support, pray, and care.
We are fragile and broken as the fabric of our lives unravels slowly with the loss of our father, husband, and grandfather. Each time I walk to his room from my car, I pass employees who each greet me with a warm smile. Even without words, their demeanor makes me feel welcome, and I’m glad that I am here. I see the staff interacting with other patients and feel confident that my father is cared for with the same nurturing, compassionate care.
Sitting at his bedside, the nurses care for us as though we are as special as the patients. They don’t even need to speak to convey their compassion for our situation. We feel comforted by their actions and their mere presence. Can they cure what will take my father within the next few hours? No. But they can nurture and support both him and us. And for that I am eternally grateful. We cannot always cure, or even relieve. But we can care.