Ode to the Nurses

Amy Rothenberg ND
5 min readNov 6
Paul & I walking along the river in Great Barrington on a warm fall day with dear friends John and Veera nearby!

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Mahatma Gandhi

While I have amazing doctors and researchers at MGH and Dana Farber who have weighed in on my case and helped carve out a plan I trust will see me back to pristine health, it’s the nurses I need to talk about! To a person, each nurse that has taken care of me is a stellar human being: intelligent, capable, and kind.

During out-patient visits I am scooped back to a room on Yawkey 9, where one nurse draws my blood and changes my PICC line cover. Another is my go-to person for questions or concerns who can also take care of annoying paperwork I need addressed. When I am living at MGH each nurse has a 7–7 shift, where I am their main focus with one or two other guests on the floor. Let’s face it: nurses run the show. They are the living heartbeat of the hospital, they bring the consistent love and healing while they deliver the care plan, put all the pieces together, problem solve, all the while keeping calm and carrying on.

I am, by nature, a curious and social person and as a rule, people like talking about themselves. So, from newly minted nurses to those with forty years walking the halls, over time, I’ve ask each nurse these questions: How long have you been at this? What drew you to oncology? What else are you into besides nursing?

I commit to remembering everyone’s name, and I file bits of their stories in my mind so I can pick up the thread of a conversation: ask how the race went, or how their mother-in-law is doing, or what their son dressed up as for Halloween. Everyone likes to be known and feel heard. I also try to learn the names of the people who deliver my food, the person who restocks my linen, the helper who takes me on a gurney for some kind of procedure. Every situation is an opportunity to connect, to brighten someone’s day. And even if I feel poorly, this helps me feel better. Part of the challenge of being at the hospital for brief or elongated stays is feeling isolated and away from my people, so these become my people.

To a point! I also know they have a job to do. These smart capable people juggle diverse needs of patients in various stages of health. Each nurse can flush a PICC line, coordinate medications, troubleshoot side-effects, dress a wound, access a port, strip and…

Amy Rothenberg ND

American Association of Naturopathic Physician’s 2017 Physician of the Year. Teacher, writer and advocate for healthy living. www.nhcmed.com