Bringing Back a Patient’s Smile

It’s no secret that UPMC is an institution true to its slogan: life-changing medicine. The values I learned the first day of orientation as a summer nurse intern have helped me understand how it’s all possible! I’m lucky to be spending my summer on 6/7 Pavilion at Shadyside Hospital, and in my short 5 weeks here, I’ve already added so many new skills to my repertoire. Nonetheless, I think the most relevant thing I’ve learned is that the basics are what really matter: communication, trust, respect, and listening.

I had the chance to work with a patient who ended up on the floor due to unfortunate circumstances, resulting in a month long stay that should have only lasted a few days. This man had most recently suffered a left CVA leaving him unable to speak, but fully aware of his surroundings. I could see that he was struggling with this new dependence on the people around him, and I wanted to help. When he became restless during night shift, a PCT helped me move him out of bed and into a chair. We gathered some paper and markers and tried to help give him a voice back. As he worked to trace his name, a few numbers, and our hands, he started smiling – the first time I’d seen him smile since I met him! By morning, after many attempts, he had clearly said his first and last name. I could see the accomplishment on his face. For so many weeks, this man had been talked about rather than talked to, sometimes asked questions that he didn’t have time to even try and answer. I’ve often thought that building relationships with patients is one of the most important parts of nursing. Bringing back someone’s smile was such a beautiful thing to be a part of, and I think we both left that encounter with renewed perspective.

Laurin Masnari, 2015 Student Nurse Internship Program