Working in a facility as a bedside nurse there are so many things that I wish I could say to patients and their family members. I believe the majority of those professionals working in hospitals would love to be able to say certain things; however, due to standards and expectations we are not able to ‘keep it real’.
In a perfect world we would be able to say things freely without worrying about sounding like arrogant know-it-alls. However, with all due respect to those that are not experienced with medical equipment or settings, they have very little clue what is and isn’t a priority when it comes to the care delivered to them or their loved ones.
Conversely, we must remind ourselves that, to the average person, some medical treatments are very scary situations. Situational awareness, combined with the complexity of medical facilities, actually leads many people to fear hospitals.
But, if we could only just be honest…
1. Nurses are not machines, we do need to take lunch and on occasion use the restroom. It is an odd concept, but we are usually working 12+ hour shifts.
2. On different nursing units, the nurse to patient ratio is different. This may lead to a difference in level of care. It is not to say that one level is better than the other, it just means that when a nurse has 2 patients compared to 6 there is more of a possibility that she can focus in on more detail and spend a little more time providing care. She is not worried about splitting her time between 4 other patients. At the same time, if a nurse does only have 2 patients, and one is ready to be downgraded while the other one is extremely sick, there is more of an urgency to maintain life sustaining medications over delivering a cup of coffee.
3. On a daily basis nurses are the go to communicator between all areas of care, we speak to doctors, family members, rehabilitation services, nutritionists, and just about anyone involved in care. This means that we are constantly talking to someone about something, so if we are not able to answer our work phones within the first few rings, we aren’t being rude, we may be on the other line or elbows deep in something unspeakable.
4. It appears to be a top concern to you, or your family member, that the IV has blood backing up in it or the urinary catheter bag is full. A patient will not die from this and it is not a reason to call for the nurse.
5. WebMD, and other online sites are informative. However, don’t read too much into the information given, it does not mean that what you read is necessarily what is wrong with your family member, or that they are being provided with the wrong treatment for a certain illnesses.
6. Most of the time this is a true statement, occasionally it isn’t true, but “Don’t argue with the doctor.” They did go to school to learn information on how to treat disease processes. I am not saying they have the best bedside manner at times or that they can’t be wrong, but try to listen to what they say.
7. If you feel like there is something wrong with a family member and the nurse isn’t responding the way you want, realize it may not actually be a problem. Most of the time we respond quickly to those things that are a priority or an emergency.
8. If you ever see a nurse running into a room, don’t attempt to stop them to ask a question unless your family member is dying, nurses have a tendency to only run in emergencies.
9. Judging the care a nurse will provide based on years of experience or education level does not always correlate to the knowledge of the nurse.
10. Most importantly, know that we care about you and your family, even if we don’t show it. Every one of us wants you to have the best experience possible.