by KrisAnn Snow

Difficult patients are my favorite.  The crusty curmudgeon. The one who yells at the nurses. The one who, when asked about each and every meal, will say, “it sucked.” The one who hits the call light every 5 minutes asking the same question, “can I have my pain meds yet?” -knowing full well he cannot for another 3 hours. The guy who no other nurse wants to take care of. He is my favorite kind of patient, and to him I say… CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

There is something about extremely difficult people that gets me motivated. Like a human puzzle, they require intense observation to find the solution. Humor usually does the trick. I try to make all of my patients laugh at least once. But these people are different. Something in their past, maybe lots of things, has calcified a hard shell over their once soft heart. I have found that the most horrible person has usually experienced horrible amounts of hurt. When there is a mountain of anger or frustration to overcome, it needs to be met with the dynamite of mercy and compassion, not the jackhammer of judgment. They should be met with understanding, that no matter how nasty they are to me, I will still take care of them.  They are the ones who need the most care, for they have been shown little.


Perhaps this what Jesus has done for me. Perhaps my care as a nurse is a mere overflow of the love poured into me by my Savior. In my darkest of moments, my hatred of Him, when I spat at his caring hand, He reached down and matched my hurt with mercy, kindness and compassion. He matched it tenfold, or if you like, seventy-times-sevenfold. He looked at my pitiful self, knowing my wretched heart and to me He said…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

In 1st Timothy, Paul describes it well when he says, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

I began my shift this morning getting report from the night nurse. And by report, I mean ‘a warning’. “This guy is a handful.” Bring it on. You with your prison tattoos, your sailor-like vocabulary, and your heart of stone. It took me 12 hours, but by the end of my shift, I held his hand, tears in his eyes, and I told him why I do what I do, and that there is a God in heaven who loves him. He asked me to pray for him. We prayed.

Now before you go on thinking I am some Mother Theresa who wears a cape and has angels singing around me, think again. When I started my career, I too had a heart of stone. My idea of care was “put some dirt on it” and “take a lap.”  It has taken me a while to realize just how powerful mercy can be. I once took a spiritual gifts quiz and scored lowest in mercy. HA. A nurse with zero amounts of mercy is a terrible irony. Yet the more I allowed God to soften my heart, the more I was able to have a soft heart for others. Love flows downstream.

This is why the terrible patients are my favorite. They are my divine opportunity to shine my little light into their swallowing darkness. I can show them what God first showed me.  For I know there is a God in heaven who is able to “give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26


KrisAnn Snow is a registered nurse at Tampa General in the ICU and ER. She has been a member of Grace for 2 years and serves as a small group leader for both the 20/30s and Beautiful Tuesday morning ministries. She loves to run, eat, and spend time with friends and family.

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