News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 12, 2013

GUEST COLUMN: Nursing more than medicine and bandages

Brooke Kempf
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Being a nurse …


Like most nurses, I chose this profession because I had a strong desire to help others and no other career would allow me the opportunity to touch lives the way I have been able to through nursing. I chose mental health as my nursing specialty but any nurse could tell you that no matter what specialty you choose, our holistic approach to our care requires us to “specialize” in every field of nursing in one way or another.

A nurse will care for the whole person not just the illness. We know there is more to a diabetic patient than just their blood sugar, more than a blood pressure reading for the heart patient. Each one of our patients has a story to share and sometimes we are the only ones they have who will listen to them. During nursing school, I quickly learned that listening to the patient’s concerns and helping them work through their fears was my favorite part of nursing. I knew I had found God’s purpose for me in mental health nursing.

I quickly learned the challenges in this field but had wonderful mentors and teachers to help me overcome those challenges. You want to do all you can for each patient, but you soon find there is only one of you and multiple patients with multiple problems and not enough hours in the day. You have to prioritize your work load but make sure that the patient that is at the end of your priority list knows they are just as important as the patient at the top of the list. Our patients always come first, which means there is often no time for lunch, no time for bathroom breaks. We come in contact with every body fluid imaginable and our only concern is to make sure we follow universal precautions so we don’t have to do more paperwork for our Infection Control Department.

Nursing is so much more than passing medication or changing a bandage. We have the amazing ability to decipher a physician’s handwriting that looks like hieroglyphics. We advocate for the patient when insurance tells you they have to go home but you know they need more time in the hospital or you provide 101 reasons why they need a certain medicine that the insurance doesn’t want to pay for. We are the teacher when they can’t understand what is wrong with them or the directions the doctor told them to follow. We are the pharmacist when they have a question about their new medicine. We are the counselor when they just need somebody to talk to. Our patient’s lives go way beyond our hospital or office doors and we are in this profession to help make sure they are able to live their lives to the fullest.

There may be a list of challenges with this profession but the rewards definitely outweigh those challenges. I have had the privilege of working at Hamilton Center for 15 years now. I am blessed to have worked with the greatest group of individuals that have dedicated their lives to care for our patients and increase awareness of the stigma associated with mental illness. I have had the opportunity to see lives changed because of what we do. I have seen the individual that tried to take her life a year ago, now graduate from college. I have worked with individuals who spent most of their adult life in an institution get their first apartment or get their first job. I have been there when my patient was diagnosed with cancer, sat with them through every chemotherapy treatment and held their hand when they took their last breath. I cry with our patients, I laugh with our patients, and yes I even pray with our patients. I couldn’t ask for a better career. I love what I do and live by our Hamilton Center motto to build hope and change lives and my patients have blessed mine.

— Brooke Kempf, RN PMHNP, Corporate Director of Nursing, Hamilton Center Inc.