Watching What You Say

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guest-blogOnce again, I find myself writing about my experiences as a healthcare consumer. I’m off work for the summer, except for the occasional PRN shift at the hospital, but even in my time away from the classroom and the bedside, I find myself learning more things about the kind of nurse I want to be.

You might have read in previous posts that I injured my back a while ago. I’ve been going to physical therapy twice a week and things had been getting better, until I went on vacation over the holiday weekend. I think walking on the sandy beaches of Michigan did something to exacerbate my condition, and when I went to my appointment and told my therapist I was worse, she called in another therapist for advice.

The other therapist came in and assessed me, and the two began a dialogue about my L3 and L5 and it was almost surreal. The two were discussing me, I was not really included in the conversation, and they were pointing out things that were wrong with me that I couldn’t see. I don’t think they were doing anything mean or inappropriate, but it sure did feel strange.

Have you ever found yourself doing this as a nurse? You call in a co-worker to bounce off some ideas about an unusual assessment finding or to help find a vein to start an IV line. You start talking about the patient, because you need to in order to ultimately help the patient, but when you don’t include them in the discussion or explain things to them they may start to feel anxious or self-conscious.

I think a similar thing that many of us have done, but is equally or even more distressing to the patient, is asking a co-worker to assist us to bathe or turn a patient or make an occupied bed and then indulging in a conversation with the co-worker about last night’s date or what you had for dinner yesterday while the patient silently lies in bed.

I think sometimes we get so focused on our tasks that we forget to treat patients as people. It’s a natural response, we see so many patients throughout our time at work and sometimes we get a little desensitized to the fact that there is a human being on the other end of our stethoscope who has feelings, emotions, thoughts, and ideas. Our days are so busy, that it takes extra time to explain every single nuance of an assessment or a procedure to a patient, but it makes a difference to them.

I know we are all caring professionals who do our best to care for others, and for the most part we do this very well. But if you find yourself in similar situation at work, where you need to discuss a patient in front of them, hopefully you will be able to include them. Even though I’m bummed about hurting my back, I am glad I am learning valuable lessons.

Have a great week, everyone!

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