The nightstand is the window to the soul

Share this article:
You know you're a nurse when ...
You know you're a nurse when ...

I think you can tell a lot about a person by what is in his or her nightstand.

Recently, I was looking for a pen and opened my nightstand drawer. After really looking at all that was in there, I thought, “Wow, these things really reveal a lot about me.” For better or worse.

There were earplugs; a light-blocking mask (Dr. Oz says it is a must); about 17 assorted lip balms (according to Dr. Oz I have a serious lip balm addiction — and, no, I am not ready for an intervention and yes, I watch way too much Dr. Oz). 

Apparently I am ready for any middle of the night emergency because I have a flashlight that is also an emergency kit, complete with fishing line, compass and plastic-wrapped matches. (Who wouldn't need THAT in the middle of the night, right?). There was also a notepad and pens for writing down that stroke of brilliance that strikes at 2 a.m. — though when you read it at 6 a.m. you say, “What the heck was I thinking?!”

Add to that an assortment of hand creams and foot creams, binoculars (no idea why!), and a singular sock. (I just solved the mystery of where that sock goes when it disappears from the dryer!)

When my dear, departed mother-in-law was in an assisted living facility years ago, we discovered by looking into her nightstand drawers that she had become a kind of kleptomaniac. Her target was — get this — adult briefs of every size and brand known to man. Apparently she would sneak out of activities and raid the other resident's rooms. I guess she didn't like the brand we bought? 

She never ‘fessed up, but that sure explained the missing stuff at the house after every visit. (Yes, dementia does strange things.)

But I also remember cleaning out the nightstands of the residents who passed on and learning things about them that I wished I had known while before they left us.

I've found things such as large-print racy, bosom-heaving romance novels in the bedside drawer of the most demure woman (you would have never guessed it of her). Apparently, she snuck them out late at night to read. If I had known, I would have “snuck” in her stacks; kind of like a weird Secret Santa.

And of course there were the hoarders: stale rolls, salad dressing packets, containers of Jell-O, sweetener packets, etc. It makes you wonder: Was it the Depression, growing up with 12 brothers and sisters, their most recent economic status or something else to make them panic about where the next meal was coming from? What could we have said or done to ease their fears?

But the most poignant was a gentleman who kept a shoe box secured with a ribbon in his nightstand drawer.  Every night before bed, he would ask for it to be given to him and would hold it for a while, looking far off and misty eyed but never opening it.  With no relatives when he passed on, we opened it.

It was filled with every love letter his wife had written to him for almost 60 years of marriage before she passed. What would I have said to him had I known, what words of comfort or how could I have shared or honored his memories? I was so touched by the beauty of his nightly ritual.

So maybe the nightstand really is the window to the soul.  What's in yours?

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC — a real life long-term care nurse who is also the director of clinical affairs for the American Medical Directors Association. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet.

Share this article:

Next Article in The Real Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, a 2012 APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse who also is the director of clinical affairs for AMDA - The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.


    More in The Real Nurse Jackie

    If you want it, YOU have to make it happen!

    If you want it, YOU have to make ...

    A recent article on Medline Nursing alleged that the average registered nurse (RN) wants more sleep, authority respect and work-life balance. We can get what we want. We just have ...

    How old is too old to work?

    How old is too old to work?

    A recent article in Health Affairs centered on nurses delaying retirement and claimed this is boosting the workforce. Should we believe this?

    Just say NO — to giving in to patients

    Just say NO — to giving in to ...

    I'm just going to say it: Nurses in long-term care are really guilty when it comes to giving in to patients who want non-clinically necessary treatment. You know what I ...