Tuesday, April 01, 2014

What Do Patients Know, Anyway?

So I'm visiting my mom in the hospital.  She's tired and needs an uninterrupted nap.  I sit out in the hallway, blocking her door, to make sure she has 15-20 minutes without anybody disturbing her.  I work on my Sudoku and tune out the conversations in the hallway.

Then a voice breaks through.  An unidentified nurse is exasperated.  "She keeps insisting that I check her blood sugar levels.  It's like she thinks I don't know how to do my job!  Why does she keep reminding me?  I am the professional here.  I've been trained.  She's just a patient."  Another nurse commiserates. 

I understand they have quite a few people to care for.  I realize not every patient can have the attention they want, exactly when they want it.  (That's one of the reasons I think it's important for patients to have someone there with them, someone to fix the pillow, to get a glass of water, to help get out of bed for a trip to the bathroom, etc.)   BUT ...

medical care is not just about science.  It's about people.  Different people have different needs.  A medicine that works for Joe may not work for Bob, even if they have the same illness.  Patients who live with chronic conditions know what's necessary.  They know what pills work better at what time of day.  They know what routines their bodies need.  They often know these things [gasp] better than the professionals do.

And then ... there is an ugly truth.

Sometimes nurses DO forget.
Sometimes they DO need to be reminded.
Maybe it's because they're truly busy and overworked.
Maybe there was an emergency in another room.
Or maybe they got too busy talking with co-workers about cute new Easter dresses.

Then add in that a patient endures the fall-out of a few doozy screw-ups, or a patient struggles to explain why something that's a minor problem for most people is a huge problem for her.  The doctor had told the patient to insist on proper care and to ask and to be pro-active and to remind the nurses.  A nurse protests that she "doesn't need to be reminded."  And somehow, we aren't so sure about that.

1 comment:

  1. And sometimes the nurse thinks he knows all about the condition and doesn't bother to read the patient's chart. Then, when the patient disagrees, the nurse gets an attitude of being put out.

    When I was in the hospital for an induction, the nurse wanted me to walk the halls. I had been on complete bed-rest for three months due to extremely high blood pressure. The nurse kept telling me to get out of bed and walk. Finally, I told her to call the doctor. If she agreed, I would walk. The nurse returned a few minutes later with a snippy attitude and kept remarking on how I was being lazy. She knew that walking increased labor. From that point on, I question all health care professionals if something isn't what I know should be happening.

    Nurses work hard and often do things that no one really wants to do. Many take excellent care of their patients. But sometimes, the professional doesn't know the specifics of an individual's needs.

    Excellent post.