My office nurse, Autumn, is a sweet kid, not much older than my own daughter. She grew up right here, and most of my patients know her from when she was little. The head nurse at our clinic gave Autumn her baby shots, and one time Autumn bit her afterwards. Now Autumn has her own two year old, so life is getting back at her.
Autumn has a way of making patients feel comfortable that I feel is a real gift. She’s still green in some respects, only a few years out of school, but she makes up for it with her great personality, her sense of who she is, and her knowledge of everyone in our community. After twenty-three years, I’m still figuring out who’s related to whom. Autumn already knows, because she’s related in some way to most of them.
The other day I ran into a patient who wasn’t at all feeling comfortable having Autumn check her in – her own mother, Brenda. Until recently, Brenda had been seeing another doctor in the area, who retired a few months ago. Brenda chose me to take over her care, knowing full well she’d have to deal with her daughter in her capacity as a nurse, instead of as her daughter.
Brenda and Autumn are very close, I can tell from the way Autumn talks about her. When Brenda was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, Autumn was right there for her, and I overlooked the personal phone calls and the glassy eyed stare – I remember my own mother’s breast cancer scare when I was in medical school.
This closeness between mother and daughter turned out to be a problem the other day. Because Brenda has had some heart problems, her blood pressure has to be tightly controlled. I knew from her old records that she hadn’t been out of range for a long time, but the first day I saw her Autumn recorded a near-panic value for her mother’s blood pressure. Ten minutes later I recorded something more in the less than ideal range. Brenda had the answer; ever since her cancer, Autumn’s concern for her mother’s health has made Brenda in turn worry about her daughter’s reactions. If Brenda doesn’t take perfect care of herself, Autumn is all over her with worry. Suddenly, I have two new patients instead of one.
Sure enough, today I had Brenda stop in for a blood pressure check by another nurse, and it was normal!