Biden claimed an ICU nurse ‘breathed on him’. Do nurses do that?

President Joe Biden claimed this week that a nurse used to ‘breathe on him’ to help while being treated for a brain aneurism in the 1980s to speed up his covery.

He made the bizarre claims on Wednesday during a speech in Virginia Beach, Virginia, about healthcare access in America. 

‘I had a nurse named Pearl Nelson. She’d come in and do things I don’t think you learn in nursing school,’ he said. ‘She’d whisper in my ear, I couldn’t understand, but she’d whisper and she’d lean down. And actually breathe on me to make sure there was a connection, a human connection.’ 

Dr April Haberyan, an associate professor for clinical nursing at the University of Rochester, in New York, told that nurses will often work to develop ‘therapeutic relationships’ with patients by making them feel comfortable. 

While whispering can help a patient reduce anxiety, breathing on a patient would be an unusual tactic, she said. ‘We would not breathe on a patient. No,’ she said.

President Joe Biden awkwardly gushed about the good treatment he received from the nurses at Walter Reed during a healthcare event in Virginia Beach, Virginia on Tuesday

She also said that a nurse breathing directly onto a patient to comfort them would be considered crossing the line.

President Biden’s remarks were referring to care he received for two life-threatening brain aneurysms he suffered in 1988.

He has recently been accused of misremembering details. This includes calling for Rep Jackie Waloski – who had recently died in a car crash – during an event in September and saying he attended a black church while younger.

During his speech discussing healthcare access in America on Tuesday, the President said his nurse in ’88 even gave him a pillow from her home after he found the one at the hospital uncomfortable.

Dr April Haberyan (pictured), an associate professor for clinical nursing at the University of Rochester, told breathing on a patient would be unusual

Dr April Haberyan (pictured), an associate professor for clinical nursing at the University of Rochester, told breathing on a patient would be unusual

He said to the medical professionals in the crowd: ‘You docs are good, but if there’s any angels in heaven, they’re the nurses, male and female.’ 

‘You know why?’ he asked. ‘You guys allow us to live, nurses make you want to live.’

‘I’m not joking,’ he continued. ‘You lie there in the ICU, which I’ve done for a long time, and you look at those machines. And you know the line goes flat that it’s over. But you just get tired, you don’t care.’

He credited the nursing staff at Walter Reed for making him want to live again.

Dr Haberyan explained that there are benefits to nurses establishing connections to their patients, though.

‘There is tremendous power with a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship,’ she explained.

‘Where you’re providing the care that the patient needs, you’re protecting those boundaries and making sure that the safe space and that they don’t feel alone.

‘It’s always about the patient. The nurse is not there to get his or her needs met. It’s really giving the patient a chance to talk about their concerns. 

‘We have to be non-judgmental. We really have to listen and provide that care for that patient. 

‘Listen to their fears and their concerns, answer their questions, you know, and be honest and open with them about their care.’

Previous studies have linked this kind of relationship to shorter hospital stays and better health outcomes for patients.

Dr Haberyan even said the breathing President Biden mentioned could help relieve feelings of anxiety, and get them information while they may be in a state of panic.

‘Generally, you’re talking to the patient and if they’re frightened you’re going to do whatever you can to make sure that they have the right information,’ she explained.

‘Then we can do anxiety-reducing techniques. So we may talk a little quieter to someone; we don’t want to overstimulate them if they’re highly anxious.’