Nurse’s heart goes into care |

Nurse’s heart goes into care

Jill Darby

Pat McGlothlin’s job requires a gentle hand and a tough stomach.

A registered nurse at Barton Memorial Hospital, McGlothlin spends her 12 hour shifts gracefully crossing comfort boundaries with folks who would rather be somewhere else.

“For patients, when you come in here you’re in the worst place you can be,” said the tall, blonde haired McGlothlin, who raced about the hospital halls Monday, wearing butterfly and beetle-patterned scrubs.

Nursing duties at Barton are shared by registered nurses, licensed practitioner nurses and certified nursing assistants. All three play a role in each patient’s daily care.

“Each hospital does nursing differently,” said McGlothlin, an 11 year South Shore resident, originally from New Jersey. “Barton does team nursing. We do almost everything. You have to be a jack of all trades. It’s good, but it’s bad. But we do have the basics to do it all.”

Monday was a quiet day on the hospital’s surgical floor but McGlothlin said things don’t always run so smoothly.

“Sometimes it’s so busy I won’t get my paperwork done until 8 p.m.,” said McGlothlin, who begins her shift at 7 a.m. “Patients come first. This is a slow time but I enjoy the slowness. I can really spend time with my patients. I enjoy all of my patients. I really do. I get such a kick out of them.”

McGlothlin’s charismatic personality and sincere compassion do not go unnoticed by her patients.

“She came in here and spent half an hour with me the other day and just chatted,” said 66-year-old patient Chuck Day, who was released Monday afternoon. “I don’t know who is responsible for it, but the attitude around here is just wonderful. Everyone is so good. I haven’t hurt for anything since I’ve been here.”

“You are too sweet,” McGlothin responded, blushing. “Just way too sweet.”

Two weeks ago McGlothlin’s daughter Kimberly was admitted to Barton after breaking her back and foot in a skiing accident. McGlothlin said she got a taste of what it is like to have a family member in the hospital.

“I will do anything for my patients, for their families because I understand how bad it is on the other side. And I love my patients. I feel really needed here. There’s a lot more to nursing than just procedures. You do everything you can to make these people feel better.”

Medical careers seem to run in McGlothlin’s family. Her sister is a doctor, her mother was a nurse and her daughter Shannon, a senior at Whittell High School, plans on studying nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno next year.

“I was surprised she wanted to do this. I talk to her about it,” McGlothlin said, with a half smile. “My mother never told me anything about it. I didn’t know what to expect.”

In an effort to ease the mind of an 83-year-old patient with stomach cancer, McGlothlin shared another bit of information about her family.

“My mother had lung cancer – I’ve watched the cancer process many times,” McGlothlin told Margaret Burton, while removing an IV from the elderly women’s paper thin skin. “My little ladies have such sensitive skin.”

California is facing a severe nursing shortage, ranking last among the 50 states in the proportion of registered nurses per 100,000 people. Though Barton is a small hospital, nurses still feel the effect of the shortage.

“When we see it is when we’re really busy,” McGlothlin said. “We have enough nurses to do all of the everyday stuff but when this hospital gets jamming, that’s when we feel it. There’s definitely a nursing shortage. I could get a job anywhere but I like Barton. I’m not going anywhere.”

Being shorthanded at times is one of many factors that can make the hospital a stressful working environment.

McGlothlin, a nurse since 1992, said over the years she has found ways to cope with the stress.

“I exercise. I walk. I take care of my kids,” she said. “Don’t sweat the small stuff. I have to remind myself of that. I do get stressed when the doctors come in and say, ‘OK, we’ve got to do this now, come on.’ You have to drop whatever you’re doing and go assist a procedure and that can be a little intimidating.”

Experience also has made it easier for McGlothlin to distance herself from the often sad circumstances surrounding her line of work.

“We’ve seen it all and when you do this all of the time, yeah, you do get colder,” she said. “You can’t shut down (in front of patients). You keep it all together, fix the problem, then you shut down later. There are a few patients you bond with and that can be really hard. On a busy day when things aren’t good you take it home with you. If you know someone is going to die and your shift is over, that’s hard and yes, you take it with you.”

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