Nurses: Medical Detectives, Caregivers, Counsellors, and All That Is Good in Healthcare

Throughout my 20-year career as a pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner, I was involved in the care of many patients and their families. Of the many experiences that have shaped the way I work and impacted how I have understood the importance of my role as a nurse, one stands out.

About ten years ago, I was performing a role that allowed me to spend a portion of my time working as part of a Children’s Community Nursing team in the South West Wales region of the United Kingdom, which is where I worked for the large part of my career.

I would regularly visit children and their families in their own homes and provide care ranging from invasive therapies and procedures to delivery of medical supplies to patients at home.


Our team shared an office with a group of school health nurses, and we’d often do favors for each other. The lead for the school health nursing team asked me one day if I would deliver some incontinence pads – adolescent nappies – to a 12-year-old child who had just started high school and was suffering from nighttime enuresis.

I asked for background as to why the child was incontinent. I was told he had a history of anxiety and that a large part of this ongoing episode, which had been happening for the past few months, was due to his starting in a new school. I was told that the incontinence would probably pass once the initial anxiety of starting school wore off.

On arrival at the family’s house, I met the boy’s mother and delivered the nappies. She invited me in, and I met the young man. On talking with her and her son I learned that he was highly embarrassed about wearing nappies overnight and was also displaying symptoms such as increased thirst and weight loss. I noticed that his breath had an unusual sweet smell to it. I suspected he might have pediatric diabetes.


Nurses epitomize everything that is good in healthcare.

Jamie Duffy Clinical Informaticist at Vocera

I asked the boy’s mum if she’d mind if I tested her son’s blood sugar. She consented and I went to the car and got my blood sugar monitor. I took a small sample, and as I expected, his blood sugar level was well above the normal range.

I got in touch with the Children’s Community Medical Consultant for the area and asked for the boy to be referred for further assessment.

Several weeks later the boy’s mother contacted me. She told me that her son had recently been assessed by the local pediatric medical team in an outpatient clinic and as a result had been diagnosed with pediatric diabetes. She appeared unusually happy with the diagnosis, and as she described how much it had changed her son’s life, I understood why.

The treatment for his diabetes included nighttime medication which prevented the bedwetting. He didn’t have to wear nappies at bedtime anymore. This increased his confidence and allowed for an easier adjustment into high school. Understanding that the bedwetting had been a symptom of the illness, not a result of anxiety, reduced his sense of embarrassment.

Other positive outcomes resulted for the boy and his family. Because he was now receiving the correct treatment for his underlying condition, his long-term health prospects increased. His parents were enjoying a better quality of life because they were relieved of constant worry about their son’s emotional and physical situation.

This experience stands out to me as one of my most valuable in terms of understanding how important we as nurses and caregivers are. We can make a difference not only in the lives of our patients, but also in the lives of the family and friends that they touch.

Nurses epitomize everything that is good in healthcare. We are medical detectives, caregivers, counselors, and usually the central link between all the other professions allied to medicine. I am immensely proud of everything I have achieved as a nurse and am incredibly proud to have chosen this as a lifelong profession.

Author
Jamie Duffy
Author credentials
BSc, RSCN, Specialist Pediatric Practitioner (SPQ) Post-Grad
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Clinical Informaticist at Vocera, Supporting Clients in the United Kingdom
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Jamie Duffy
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Throughout my 20-year career as a pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner, I was involved in the care of many patients and their families. Of the many experiences that have shaped the way I work and impacted how I have understood the importance of my role as a nurse, one stands out.

About ten years ago, I was performing a role that allowed me to spend a portion of my time working as part of a Children’s Community Nursing team in the South West Wales region of the United Kingdom, which is where I worked for the large part of my career.

I would regularly visit children and their families in their own homes and provide care ranging from invasive therapies and procedures to delivery of medical supplies to patients at home.


Our team shared an office with a group of school health nurses, and we’d often do favors for each other. The lead for the school health nursing team asked me one day if I would deliver some incontinence pads – adolescent nappies – to a 12-year-old child who had just started high school and was suffering from nighttime enuresis.

I asked for background as to why the child was incontinent. I was told he had a history of anxiety and that a large part of this ongoing episode, which had been happening for the past few months, was due to his starting in a new school. I was told that the incontinence would probably pass once the initial anxiety of starting school wore off.

On arrival at the family’s house, I met the boy’s mother and delivered the nappies. She invited me in, and I met the young man. On talking with her and her son I learned that he was highly embarrassed about wearing nappies overnight and was also displaying symptoms such as increased thirst and weight loss. I noticed that his breath had an unusual sweet smell to it. I suspected he might have pediatric diabetes.


Nurses epitomize everything that is good in healthcare.

Jamie Duffy Clinical Informaticist at Vocera

I asked the boy’s mum if she’d mind if I tested her son’s blood sugar. She consented and I went to the car and got my blood sugar monitor. I took a small sample, and as I expected, his blood sugar level was well above the normal range.

I got in touch with the Children’s Community Medical Consultant for the area and asked for the boy to be referred for further assessment.

Several weeks later the boy’s mother contacted me. She told me that her son had recently been assessed by the local pediatric medical team in an outpatient clinic and as a result had been diagnosed with pediatric diabetes. She appeared unusually happy with the diagnosis, and as she described how much it had changed her son’s life, I understood why.

The treatment for his diabetes included nighttime medication which prevented the bedwetting. He didn’t have to wear nappies at bedtime anymore. This increased his confidence and allowed for an easier adjustment into high school. Understanding that the bedwetting had been a symptom of the illness, not a result of anxiety, reduced his sense of embarrassment.

Other positive outcomes resulted for the boy and his family. Because he was now receiving the correct treatment for his underlying condition, his long-term health prospects increased. His parents were enjoying a better quality of life because they were relieved of constant worry about their son’s emotional and physical situation.

This experience stands out to me as one of my most valuable in terms of understanding how important we as nurses and caregivers are. We can make a difference not only in the lives of our patients, but also in the lives of the family and friends that they touch.

Nurses epitomize everything that is good in healthcare. We are medical detectives, caregivers, counselors, and usually the central link between all the other professions allied to medicine. I am immensely proud of everything I have achieved as a nurse and am incredibly proud to have chosen this as a lifelong profession.

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