Sometimes the tables turn, and nurses find themselves on the other side of the healthcare equation – as the patient or alongside a friend or family member that is the patient. And sometimes by association, those experiences give nurses a unique perspective and understanding of a patient’s needs and that is worthy of being shared.
When a nurse spent time on the other side in a top-notch Boston ED after her mom suffered a subdural hematoma, this is what she had to say:
Here’s my list of things I wish nurses would remember:
You are suddenly powerless as the patient looks to you for signs that he or she is safe. Tell them they’re safe. Even if you’re busy; tell them you will keep them as well as can be expected.
Little things go a long way. Bring the ice chips. Offer a hot cloth or another blanket. It only takes seconds to make a patient feel human again.
Remember that your patients hear everything you’re saying. Not comforting to hear you go on and on about your new sneakers with your peers, or the “turkey bone lady” on her way to the OR. Your patients are sick, not deaf. So be sensitive to what they are hearing from you.
Say what you’re doing before you do it. Powerless=Terrified. It helps patients to prepare themselves mentally for what is coming. It also helps them to understand.
Make eye contact. My mom offered gratitude to everyone who helped her. That was about 20 people. I think maybe 4 made eye contact with her as she spoke. If eye contact is made, the patient feels that she is being heard.
If you can’t take time out of your busy schedule to care, even for a split second, then perhaps you are in the wrong profession. Or find a setting where you can because really, you are useless as a nurse otherwise. If we’re not about caring, what are we about?
Some patients will always be inappropriate. Some are jerks, some are scared jerks, some are senile. Your job is to ‘read’ the patient and to set limits with your mad authoritative skills. When you get older, they’ll all stop hitting on you anyway so there’s a light at the end of that tunnel.
Remember when friends show you their rashes or weird bumps, it’s because they trust you with their fear. It is an honor they are bestowing on you. Suck it up and offer help.
Someone needs to invent soundproof divider curtains. Then you can talk as loud as you want at 2 am because you’re wide awake on your natural cycle, unlike the exhausted families around you.
We will remember you long after you’ve forgotten us. So, rather be remembered for the good that you did, not for being intolerant and uncaring.
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