Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some tips on being a patient

I am awestruck at the selfishness of some people. I am beginning to believe that the 'Hotel Bellevue' stereotype of one of the places (ahem) I spend a lot of time is true. And I'm desperately hoping for something more satisfying... someday. It is so discouraging to me to go 'serve' everyday, knowing that no matter how much I give or how compassionate or empathetic I am, maybe once in a blue moon my patient will thank me or feel close to me at the end of our day. I understand some people are not as verbal about their feelings as I am, especially to complete strangers, but I am beginning to see the incredible value in looking someone in the eyes and THANKING them. With a genuine smile.

I have been trying this at the grocery store and other various places I receive service. People are not very good about receiving thanks, either, I'm noticing. Maybe it's the busy pace of most service industries like grocery stores, but I think we have become a culture that is uncomfortable with "too close" encounters. We like to keep people at a safe distance, where we can control our little environment, ignore whoever we deem necessary, and get all the things done in the day that we had planned. You know, sometimes being flexible and dropping an agenda or ten can show another human being the value of their presence.

Back to the story about 'Hotel Bellevue'. The person I had the pleasure of serving this afternoon was very distraught when I got there. I spent 20 minutes with her at the beginning of my busy shift, just listening, not making any excuses for people who had clearly, in her mind, screwed up. I reassured her that I was here for her and that if she needed anything (even just to talk), all she had to do was call me.

I thought we had gotten started on a great foot. Throughout the course of the night, we became busy with our other 5 patients, as well. By the end of the night, she was accusing me of "fighting" with her, arguing that my way was the best way, and telling her that I controlled what time she received her medications (well, that part is sort of true, which is why you want to be nice to your nurse - one note, I try my very best to be "on time"; I never promise that I will be anywhere at a certain time, but I do request my patients to call me and make friendly reminders). Funny, because I distinctly remember sharing with her at the start that I was there to make her comfortable and that my job was NOT to tell her what to do. My patients all have free will - they can at any point, get up and leave the hospital (it is not a prison, after all), refuse medication, or refuse treatment.

I don't know that patients realize that we (I) have feelings, too. Sometimes, I am just expected to relax and 'not take it personally' (as the wife of a verbally abusive, yet fully cognizant man told me the previous evening). It hurts when someone turns on you and breaks the trust you believed you had with them. It hurts when they tell people things that are not true about you or make up stories as to WHY you did what you did. How in the world could she get inside my mind, heart, or motivation?

It is getting increasingly difficult to put on the happy face. So, by the end of the night, I admit, I was looking her dead in the face with the most blank stare you could imagine. She just didn't deserve the smile or the 'nice nurse' anymore. Not after hours of mutilation and verbal abuse. When she asked me to reposition her limb for the 3rd time in an hour, but she "didn't want to take up too much of my precious time", I stood holding the limb, repositioning the pillows, doing exactly as she asked. No mercy. No smile. That is NOT how I want things done in my practice. So, please, folks, if you go in for surgery (elective, emergent, urgent, however it's done), please be NICE to your nurse! Be considerate. Ask politely. Don't demand. Do ask personal questions, but not to later use against her. Smile. And don't wait until your pain is a '10' every time. And if you get tired of the long lists of 'dos' and 'don'ts', DO NOT come to join me at the place I serve (ahem). Thank you and good night.

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