All My Patients Die
By Traci Warner, MSN, FNP
“I love medicine! I love being a nurse practitioner. I love that I can see a woman with a blood pressure of 262/108 one day, and after some counseling, life changes, and medications, see her back in the office after several weeks with an in-range BP reading. I can measure the degree of erythema surrounding an infected lower extremity wound and watch that redness shrink as antibiotics, prescribed by me, destroy a bacteria’s cellular wall. Listening to the crackling lung sounds of a five-year-old boy and then handing his mother the antibiotic to aid in restoring his breathing, is something very satisfying. I even have a number of patients out there who claim I helped save their lives because of some specific heart-related care I had administered. Yes, medicine is an amazing profession, and I so value the role I get to play in the health of so many people. But ya know what?
“One hundred percent of my patients will die! And so will yours!”
How’s that for a motivational speech to a room full of medical and nursing students? New medical students are the best. They’ve successfully maneuvered through intense testing and intimidating medical school applications. There’s a special white coat ceremony that sets them apart in this elite world of clinical healthcare providers, and they arrive ready to conquer the world of death and disease! Unfortunately, their stats are terrible! We can cure illnesses with a quick scribble on a prescription pad. We can stent the coronary arteries and restore blood to that mighty organ. We can even saw through a skull and remove a cancerous tumor.
But you know what we can’t do? We can’t prevent death. It comes despite our best attempts to stave it off. Despite our costly training and our years of clinicals and residency, one hundred percent of our patients still die. Hebrews 9:27 says it. The obituary section of your local paper reveals it. We know it to be true.
So what more are we offering to people? I repeat: I love medicine. But I know the physical limitations my profession possesses. I know something else as well. I know I can offer to my patients the knowledge of life after death. Of healing of both body and soul. Of a personal relationship with the Great Physician who loves them and desires their fellowship.
And so that’s why I do what I do. And that’s why I can’t limit my care here to the physical.
–Traci Warner, MSN, FNP, is a MedSend grant recipient serving in Nicaragua
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