The Most Unexpected ‘Reward’ I’ve Ever Received For Being A Nurse

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Very often, nurses find that their work seems to follow them–on vacation, to the store, at the kids’ soccer games. After awhile, we begin to accept this as par for the course.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Germany with my husband and a group of his coworkers. THEY had to work while I would get to tour the city of Cologne. Or so I thought. On the plane, about an hour from the coast of Scotland, a flight attendant requested a doctor to the rear of the aircraft.

We were seated directly in front of the rear restroom, and the only people who seemed to be headed toward the rear were lining up to use the facility. After a minute I got up and went back. I found a middle-aged German lady seated with oxygen on and two flight attendants present. They told me that she had made her way to the rear of the plane after “waking up, not feeling good, and having wet her pants.”

There also was a young man seated beside her who did not appear to be related. I asked if he was a doctor and he responded, “Yes ma’am.” (You know that you have been a nurse for a while when the doctors start calling you ma’am). “But I work for the CDC and haven’t done any clinicals since I was a resident.” I assured him that I was an ICU nurse and we would get through this together.I started the usual assessment with vital signs, history and meds–fortunately she spoke English!–and ascertained that she probably had experienced a TIA (transient ischemic attack or “pinstroke”).

After ensuring that she could safely swallow and noting that her blood pressure was a bit low, I instructed the flight attendants to give her a full bottle of water every half hour for two hours, then every hour until landing.

I then explained to the patient what had happened and offered her four baby aspirin (which I have learned to carry at all times–this once happened to a priest with whom I was serving the Holy Communion in the middle of a service!). I administered the aspirin and filled out a medical form the flight attendant gave me. (Paperwork is ALWAYS part of the job-even at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic!)

A few minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked up to see the flight attendant handing me a card: “Thank you for rendering medical assistance to a passenger in flight. Please accept these 5,000 Sky Miles as a token of our appreciation.”

A nice, unexpected “reward” indeed!

However, the REAL reward came just after sunrise when we landed and were getting up to leave the plane. My patient was seated in the middle of the cabin and she reached out, grabbed my hand and thanked me. She promised to see her physician and hadn’t experienced any further symptoms.

We all know that our skills and experience can be called upon at any time and any place. Sometimes it is in the one that you least expect! What’s the quirkiest reward you’ve ever received for being a nurse? Share in the comments section below.

You make a living out of what you do. You make a life out of what you give (Winston Churchill).

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. I too have responded several times to medical emergencies on a plane. The first time, I answered a flight attendant’s call for a medical emergency, the passenger had passed out on the floor of the plane. We chatted while I assessed him. Turns out he had a GI bleed. About 3weeks later, I was called out of the ER that I was working at. There stood the passenger that I had tended to, and he gave me a gift card to Victoria’s Secret. I had forgotten that I had told him where I worked. He told me he had emergency surgery and thsnked me profusely for helping him.
    Nurses don’t get thanked often enough.

  2. I was a retired hospital CEO, who after retirement volunteered (as a still registered RN) at age 72 to be a surgery team mission member to the Dominican Republic with Medical Ministry International. At the time of surgery for a lady patient who was very stressed pre surgery, I serving as anesthesia monitor at the head of the table, assured her that all would go well (as it did). As she woke up post surgery, she held out her hands to hold my hands, and with a smile on her face said “gracias”. God is great!

  3. I used to work in the cardiac cath lab. On this day, I went to the pre-procedure unit to assess my first patient of the day and did my usual pre-procedure patient teaching. Most patients are naturally very apprehensive going in for a procedure, especially when there’s a real possibility that something could go wrong and they may not make it, coming face-to-face with their own mortality. This particular patient happened to be an employee of our hospital although I had never met her before. On a scale of 1-10, her anxiety level was about a 15 and was having chest discomfort! I assured her that I was the “keeper of the keys” and would make sure she was comfortably sedated. I also told her that I promised that my face would be the last she’d see before going into twilight sleep and the first face she’d see when she woke up. I reassured her that I would be with her for the entire duration, never leaving her. The procedure went well. She had an involved, challenging PTCA with stent placements. When she awoke and before leaving the procedure room, I was as promised right next to her and told her all went well. From there she went off to the post-procedure area and continued her recovery with a look of relief on her face saying that she felt good with no pain.
    A few months later I saw her while walking down one of the hospital hallways. She gave me the hugest hug with tears in her eyes. She then relayed to the group she was walking with the promise I made to her about being with her for the entire duration of her cardiac procedure and that she would never forget my kindness and support. That was years ago and still warms my heart when I think about the encounter. I was just doing what I always do for my patients, but to her, it was more. Experiences like this make it all worth it!

  4. This is more heartwarming than anything.i was a nurse in my first year in CCU on the 7 p-7a shift. We got mostly older pts usually.but I got a young girl admission with neuro symptoms after a poss OD. She woke up and was alert enough to talk fairly soon after and I was able to speak with her in depth about why she took drugs. She was only 19 y/o and had boyfriend problems. This was in 1984. I had a teenage son at the time who was struggling with the drug scene in school and I talked to her the way I talked to my son,(even though while I was doing it I recalled my nursing instructors always drilling into us not to share personal info with pts.) She was very attentive and shared feelings with me and said later when she was transferred to the floor that she really appreciated my spending so much time with her and listening to her problems. Fast forward to about 2yrs later…I was at a gas station after working a killer 14 hr shift. A black girl in the next bay getting gas came over to me.I didn’t recognize her,but she quickly walked right up to me,very close. I actually was a little afraid of her the way she approached.But then,she got right up to me and said “you were my nurse 2 yrs ago and I want you to know that you saved my life that night,and I turned my life around thanks to you”. She was so sincere and had tears in her eyes,and then, so did I. It was such a sweet gesture and made me feel so,so good. I filled my gas tank,and my heart was full from her appreciation of what I had shared with her yrs before. I’ve never forgotten this girl and what she did for me. It just goes to show that sometimes using nursing intuition and instinct can be work out to be the best Intensive care.

  5. I was returning from vacation, when the cabin crew asked for a responder to a gentleman in distress. No one else making a move, I inquired as to how I could help. The crew had moved the passenger to the first class cabin, and they asked if I could “check him out”. After a short question and answer, I realized that this was a ploy that was being used to access First Class, by this cute, elderly man, who told me that ” I sometimes get a little airsick in coach”.
    I assured the crew that the gentleman seemed stable, and they asked me if I would stay with him in First. I was happy to remain with the Dear until we were both at the end of our flight, so a ride in First Class was my reward, for understanding, and caring enough to volunteer.

  6. Boy, that was nice. I did something extraordinary when a passenger had a psychiatric event and never even got a thank you note from the Spanish airline. It’s wonderful to be appreciated.


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