by Bonnie Kerrick, RN, BSN
The black and white photograph has captured a certain moment in time. Something has happened or is about to happen, between the young nurse and the little boy.
The nurse, in her white starched uniform and pleated starchedcap, stands next to the little boy sitting in a hospital crib. The crib side is down, and they have been talking. The little boy looks up expectantly at the nurse, and she looks back at him, her head slightly inclined toward his. He looks like he feels very safe. He looks like he trusts her.
The little boy’s head seems out of proportion for a four year old, and it is. He was born with hydrocephalus – water on the brain – a condition that has required surgical intervention several times already in his young life.
I am the young nurse at the bedside, and the little boy is Bobby. We have just finished a procedure where I push on a plastic tube behind his ear a number of times, 20 sticks in my mind, which “shunts” the fluid from the ventricles in his brain into his urinary system. In fact, the valve is called a shunt. It doesn’t hurt him, it’s done four times a day, and he is used to it. It’s a part of his life. What is happening, just at this moment, is that Bobby is asking me if he can pump my shunt. In fact, his exact words, which stay with me to this day are, “Miss Dinsmore, now can I pump your shunt?”
As the photo was snapped, I am trying to figure out how to respond. It doesn’t take me a minute to decide.
“Sure, Bobby,” I say. I take his little fingers and guide them behind my right ear, where he proudly pushes rhythmically twenty times, helping me as I have helped him. When it is done, he settles down for a nap, and I leave his room to help other children and their parents.
This is the kind of nurse I was, and this photo, taken by a colleague in 1964, hangs in my bedroom where I can see it every day. It is a touchstone from my past that reminds me how joyous it can feel to be kind and help people feel comfortable with who they are.
© Bonnie Kerrick, RN, BSN
Bonnie Kerrick is the Editor of Confident Voices: The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication & Creating Positive Workplaces!