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The Story of Mr. Smith: Part II

Updated: Feb 27

By Matt P. RN

Because of their condition, patients are likely to be easily annoyed and short-tempered and often put little or no effort into participating in their plan of care.

He said, “You’re annoyingly persistent, aren’t you?” I was just ready to give my most elaborate apology when he said, “This is my second life, you know?”

I couldn't believe that Mr. Smith was sharing something with me! I got so ecstatic and nervous at the same time, that I couldn’t think of a better reply than “Excuse me? Here, eat your soup.” He made that unflattering smirk again nudging his tube.

“This has been my second life. I was shot in my chest during the war,” he said after gulping a spoonful of soup.

“You’re a soldier?”, I asked while suddenly realizing why he was stoic all the time.

“During the Second World War…against the Japanese,” he uttered.

I nodded to reply, and he probably saw how big my eyes got as he was talking with me.

“Piece of the bullet is stuck in my left lung. For all I know, the doctors opted not to remove it. They said it’s better to leave it like that to avert a possible massive bleed. It has been in me since,” he explained.

I listened intently trying to convince myself of the veracity of his story. Nonetheless, I was happy that Mr. Smith was conversing with me.

Minutes passed by and I just sat there listening. He shared how he had persuaded his wife to marry him. Day after day, I could see how sharing his stories made him smile. It made me happy inside so during my shift, I allotted the time to hear his rants about the government, how he adores his grandchildren, his joys, and his pains of everyday life. I could see his health was improving as he was cooperating in his care. Hence, the art of listening was indeed effective! Nurses are in with me when I say that seeing your patients recover is like winning a lottery. You just can’t explain the extreme happiness that it brings to your heart. It’s that “feel good and feel proud” moment. I felt more than accomplished.

A day before Mr. Smith was discharged, he asked me to wheel him around the area. My colleagues were all happy to see him smile as they waved at him. He continued sharing his stories of how life was difficult during the war and so on. Then I wheeled him back to his room and he held my hand, with a tear in his eye, he said, “Thank you.”

Upon hearing those words, I felt a lump in my throat as he continued saying, “Thank you for taking care of me despite me being so pigheaded. Thank you for listening to all of my stories including my rants.”

I couldn’t hold back a tear in my own eye when I heard him say, “Amongst all the nurses that took care of me–you are my favorite.”

My heart melted from what I heard as I clutched his hand tighter. The stoic and straight-faced Mr. Smith softened and gave me a look of delight and gratitude.

“You were always there even if I asked you to go away,” he said. I was about to burst my tears - I was appreciated and it made me feel jubilant!

After Mr. Smith was discharged, I organized his chart’s notes and by chance saw his chest X-ray results. I couldn't help but smile because I remembered his story about having a bullet stuck in his lung. That story had opened up everything else for him.

As a nurse, we take an oath to care for our patients and we work hard to give them the best care in the world. We do carry out the doctor’s order, take vital signs, and administer medications, but most of all, we become their support system during one of the most trying times of their lives. It was said by one of my professors that we must treat our patients as if they are our relatives, in that way, we can give them the best nursing care.

You cannot just simply give up and provide mediocre care to a patient who is giving you a hard time. Take it as a challenge. And remember that it’s during those times that they need our care the most. Even with a busy schedule and rushing to get the job done, we sometimes just have to stop and take it slow, be there for our patients, and remember the core of being a nurse. Listen to them and give them a pat on the back saying “I am here, and I will help you get well.” After all, there is no greater joy.

Jenn's note: Thank you Matt! What a great story about not giving up on a difficult patient! And because you didn't give up, you succeeded at finding that connection that's so conducive to the healing process...

It's like advocacy meets compassion and the joy you felt helping that man can only be described as job satisfaction "off-the-chart"! Way to go!

For more stories like this one, pick up a copy of Off the Chart A Nurse's Journey

of Heart and Humor at

Published by Jennifer Tipton / This post may contain affiliate links.


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