Sometimes the tables turn and we find ourselves on the other side of the health care equation --as the patient or alongside a friend or family member that is the patient. And sometimes those experiences give us a unique perspective and understanding that is worthy to be shared. Check out the words of compassion and wisdom from Modern Nurse reader Lorri D., BSN, MS, RN:
I spent time on the other side this weekend in a top-notch Boston ED after my mom suffered a subdural hematoma.
Here’s my list of things I wish nurses would remember:
Your suddenly powerless patient looks to you for signs 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 blanket. It takes seconds to make a patient feel human again.
Remember 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 (unless they are).
Say what you’re doing before you do it. Powerless=Terrified
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 you can’t “stop” to care, even for a split second, get the heck out of the 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 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.
Thank you, Lorri! We wish your mom a speedy recovery.