I think you all have an idea of what I’m talking about, whether you’re a nurse, a CNA, a student, or even an employee of one or your hospital’s ancillary departments. There are always those things, the things you wish you could say to your patients that would be taken as respectfully as you intend them to be. The things that as healthcare workers we experience every day, but know our patients have no idea just the burden that it places on us when these seemingly insignificant actions are put into play.
A few weeks ago, I asked the question of If you could say anything to your patients, what would it be and it was met with an amazing response. Many of your ideas had me laughing and nodding in agreement. So without further ado, here are five of what I considered to be the most universally applicable responses:
- When you use your call light, please tell me why you are calling. This is huge, and when it comes down to it, it will save you and I both some time. While “I need help” or “I need my nurse” will get you a response, it is incredibly helpful to know what I will be walking in to. Do I need to come personally, or can I send a CNA if I am tied up? Are you having shortness of breath or chest pain that would necessitate me dropping everything I am currently doing with another patient, or do I need to swing by your room to deliver some nausea medicine as my next stop? If it’s just another can of Coke you want, let me know so I can grab it on my way down to your room instead of having to make another trip.
- Please, put your cell phone down. This isn’t airport security, or the DMV, but I would appreciate the respect of putting your phone down when I am trying to ask you questions. If you feel up to it, talk all you want on your own time, but I am here to be your nurse, not your personal attendant. To “come back later” puts me at a serious inconvenience when I’m trying to juggle the care of anywhere between two and seven patients. I understand that emergencies come up, and you may need to pick up your phone to quickly reassure your loved one who may panic if you don’t answer that everything is okay, but please, please, please don’t use med pass and assessment time as an opportunity to engage in a catch-up chat with your long lost cousin who wants to make amends now that she found out you’re having a health scare. Just call them back.
- Do you really understand what 10/10 pain truly means? I don’t doubt you are hurting. I can see it in your vital signs. I can see it in the grimace on your face as you try to get comfortable in a hospital bed that is anything but. I can see it in the bumps and bruises and incisions that mark your body. I understand that pain is subjective, and if you’re one of the unlucky that’s been given the curse of chronic, unremitting pain, I may not see anything at all because you’ve learned to so bravely continue about your daily life and not allow it to hold you back.10/10 pain means the worst possible pain you could ever imagine. Is there not anything that could possibly happen to make you hurt worse? I’m not the one in your shoes, and I can’t claim to feel what you feel, but I have a hard time believing that the discomfort you are feeling from your nitro headache is anywhere close to how you would rate losing an appendage. A pain scale is subjective, I understand that, and what you are able to tolerate could be vastly different than that of the person next door or even me personally. But still, give some consideration to how it would feel to have an arm or leg ripped off or unsedated surgery and then tell me where your pain level falls.
- Sometimes making you happy and making you better are not one in the same. When it’s possible, I promise I will do everything in my power to give you the best of both worlds. But when you’re scheduled for an endoscopy in a few hours, I’m not going to feed you. When your blood pressure is reading dangerously low, I may not be able to, in good conscious, give you the maximum dose of your pain medication. If you are admitted for heart palpitations, I can’t give you your daily cup of caffeinated coffee. This isn’t me being mean, lazy, or restrictive; it’s me being responsible and caring more about your health than your happiness when the two worlds are mutually exclusive.
- I wish you could see what I truly do. I do this job because I love it, and couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. But when you make comments like “You’re not doing anything” or “My nurse was barely in here this shift” they can be incredibly hurtful, because you don’t see the half of what I do. For every ten minutes I’m in your room, it’s likely that I’m spending an hour managing your care from the command station that is the nurse’s desk. I’m on the phone with doctors, conversing about your latest test results, updating them on your condition, even suggesting interventions that I feel will make you more comfortable. I’m walking down to the lab to hand-deliver your blood and specimens. I’m double checking with pharmacy to ensure the doses and frequencies of your medications are correct for and do not put you at risk with their interactions. When I’m not doing that, I’m on my computer, documenting every little abnormality I saw on my assessment so that changes in your condition can be quickly met. I’m reading through your orders the notes that the doctor made and making sure that I’m up to date on your treatment plan and that nothing is getting lost in the shuffle.
So please, coming from a nurse who cares about her patients and care about her profession as I feel like the majority of us do, don’t say that I don’t try.