Give a Little Honey

When searching “The Benefits of Honey,” multiple websites resulted, laying claim to the use of honey in treating allergies, aiding in sleep, enhancing athletic performance, and even treating wounds, such as burns. The same search through Google Scholar provided many articles on the subject. I’m skeptical of the grandiose claims. I eat honey simply because it tastes sweet; any added benefit is icing on the cake. However, there is another type of sweetness that is undoubtedly good for the body, and the soul. The sweetness found in kind words. New nurses don’t anticipate receiving too much “honey.” There’s not too many opportunities to hear encouraging words, especially from physicians. Why? Because there hasn’t been enough experience to really benefit the team. Hard workers? Yes. But savvy clinicians? Not quite. It’s a time when the team is investing. It is a time when the doctor, the respiratory therapist and when fellow nurses are helping that new nurse connect the dots from textbook to practice.

There are occasions when the unexpected and unanticipated words of affirmation are spoken. I remember two.

The first was when I was working night shift. This was about three months into my new nursing career. I was taking care of a baby who had a tracheoesophageal fistula and esophageal atresia. The baby’s temperature had steadily increased throughout the night, along with the respiratory rate, and the baby just seemed different. I spoke with several nurses, and fact of the matter was I knew I needed to call our neo. No problem, right? Hardly. It was approaching three in the morning and I knew I would wake him up. And then what if he was mad because maybe my concerns were misinterpreted? Regardless, I had to call.

I punched my “neo on call” button and the line began to ring. That awkward moment of identifying yourself and then pausing for the person on the other end of the line to wake up took place; I wonder if it’s something I would have gotten use to had I continued on night shift. I informed him of the infant’s status. He began to ask questions, which caused me to feel even more terrified. I was calling him with questions, I gave him the only bits of information I had. So I thought. That sweet doctor asked, “The baby went to radiology today, right?” I said, “Right.” He said, “Well, it could be the contrast causing the change, do you think?” I said, “I’m sorry, I have no idea.” He said, “It could be the contrast or he could be septic. How do we know?” Again, I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “Well, we don’t. So we better get a CBC and blood culture.” I took the order and proceeded with the lab. That morning he made his rounds and wrote orders for antibiotic therapy because the baby’s white count was elevated along with the fever and respiratory rate. He said, “Good job! You caught that!” What???? Me???? Wow! I sure wasn’t expecting that, and I surely will never forget it.

Another instance occurred about a year into my nursing career. I was on day shift at this point. My assignment was a one-on-one. In critical care, we know that’s not so good. The baby had NEC and the bowel had perforated. At the point I had the baby the abdominal cavity was somewhat open with retention sutures, the baby was being treated for sepsis, was on a JET and was down right very, very sick. I was drawing frequent blood gases. When the results printed for one in particular, I thought, “No way. This can’t be right.” When I handed the results to the baby’s neonatologist I said, “I think there must be an operator error.” She chuckled a little and then said, “No, you did it right. This baby is very sick.”

I administered countless meds, we had x-rays, gave blood, ran gases and I can’t even remember everything else. What I do remember is I had a realization that this baby could die. With each task and every intervention, I prayed. I prayed for a miraculous work in her body. I prayed the Lord would make Himself known to everyone involved in her care by the supernatural touch she so desperately needed. And the other thing I remember is walking out that day. I was exhausted and the baby was not stable. I had given my all and it just didn’t seem like enough. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling too great. And that is when those sweet words, like honey, fell upon my ears. Dr. Malik, sitting at the computer, didn’t look up but said, “You did a good job today, Heather.” I didn’t even know she knew my name! And I surely didn’t feel like I had made much of a difference. But her words made a deposit in my heart giving me the tenacity to come back and do it all over again.

I would love for every physician to know how much of an encouragement they can be to their nurses and what a difference it makes in the work environment. Nurses are going to give their best regardless, because it’s all about the patient, but nothing is stronger than unity. And when everyone is united, the moments of teaching and instruction are well received, the inhibition to ask questions is removed and the security of the team benefits the whole reason we are there…the patient.

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey—
sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities to work with physicians like Dr. Anderson and Dr. Malik who took a moment to speak kind words. While those moments likely fade from their memory, they will never leave mine.


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