“I Started to Walk Away. I Was Done. I Didn’t Need to Hear His Story”: Nurse Who Turned Down Patient Says, ‘I Messed Up. I Need to Do Better.’


“I showed up to work today, exhausted per usual. My day starts at 4:30 a.m. and I’ve been battling an upper respiratory Illness that started off as a covid scare, so I’ve been more exhausted than usual.

I’m human.

So being tired, it makes me snappy and short sometimes. And today, my patience was wearing thin.

Then a frequent flyer showed up at 10:34 a.m. even though he knows we don’t admit after 10:30 a.m. As he walked up to me, I was already shaking my head no. All I could think was, ‘Not today! I am NOT doing this today. I am done helping people who don’t want to help themselves!’

I work in substance abuse services, and this patient was coming back after a 6 day bender. He started to talk to me and before he could finish his first sentence, I was already interrupting to tell him ‘10:30’

That’s all I said.

And then I started to walk away.

I was done. I didn’t need to hear his story, because I was NOT going to admit him.


And as I walked away he yelled: ‘You’re only doing this for a paycheck. You don’t care what happens to me.’

I didn’t stop.

I didn’t re-admit.

He left my booth. And I proceeded with my day.

But I came home tonight, and this patient is still heavy on my mind because I could’ve done better…. and he deserved better.

Because he showed up today because he needed help and I refused to give it. I refused to even LISTEN to what he needed to say. I didn’t act like a good nurse and more importantly, I didn’t act like a good person.

Today, I messed up. And I messed up worse than my patient who was coming back from his 6 day bender. Somehow, I manifested a reasoning in my mind to why this person was only the worst decisions he’d ever made instead of just another person.

Today, I realized that I need to do better. But I also realized WE need to do better.

We as nurses.
We as parents.
We as friends.
We as a community.
We as a nation.
We as a whole.

We all need to do better.

Addiction is not a unique condition; we all have it. Sure, we may not all be addicted to the same thing but I promise, there is something in your life you do despite the fact it’s probably not good for you! So if we all have this trait, why are we so quick to judge it? Why aren’t we reminding these people that we love them and we’re here to help and they deserve all those good things?

Why are we so quick to offer up ‘tough love’ instead of just love?

We need to fight this epidemic head on, with compassion and empathy.

So to my patient who didn’t get admitted today: I’m sorry.

Not because I didn’t bend the policy for you, but for not listening. For making you feel like you didn’t deserve to be there. And for being less than the nurse you deserved.

You are worthy.
You are loved.
And you deserve to be happy.
I promise to do better for you next time.

I hope I’ll see you tomorrow, before 1030 a.m.!”

**This post was written by Betsy Hendrickson-Minton. See more from her on Facebook

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