Happy Unintentional Ignorance Awareness Week!

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    Ah, the joys of stress and the work environment. Everyone has their own unique brand of coping. Some smoke, some gamble, some cry. I laugh. A lot. And I make it a point to laugh at myself first, early, and often. Ever do something so completely....well....stupid, that it actually pulls you from your sleep in the middle of the night to leave you shaking your head at yourself in the dark? This is one of those moments. And remember: Please do not try this at home.

    Happy Unintentional Ignorance Awareness Week!

    Happy Unintentional Ignorance Awareness Week!

    And no, no that is not a thing. Well, not yet anyway. But if I get my say, it will be.

    Why? Because we are all, each and every one of us, perpetrators of unintentional ignorance, read: idiocy, in the face of individuals who fit "stereotypes" or strike us in particular manner. We are all guilty, at some point or other in our lives, of doing wonderful things such as asking a heavy woman when the baby is due, or, God forbid, rubbing our hands on her stomach while burbling that we're "just so happy for you!".

    Sometimes we do other awesome things such as shout at the blind, because apparently sight and sound go together. More magnificent is when we slow down our speech and over enunciate our language at an individual with an English vocabulary confined strictly to the word "okay", because it's not that they don't know the language--no, that's not it--it's that we are speaking w-a-y t-o-o f-a-s-t. Or too soft. Again with the shouting.

    Have you ever seen an anesthesiologist pantomime an intubation before? I have. And I promptly scuttled to the eye wash station as my retinas felt horribly violated by what they were convinced was hand puppet porn. Imagine what the patient was thinking!

    So if we are doomed to these events, what in the world can we do to help stop them? Well, for one, speak up.

    If you see someone eyeballing the elderly man at the patient's bedside and getting to be about ready to ask if that person is the patient's father, and you happen to know he's the husband, interrupt and introduce. And for all things sacred, stop the doctor from bellowing blue hell at the frail little 93 years old (young, thank you very much) woman with CHF in bed 87A. Unless, of course, you are prepared to ramp up the O2 and call an RRT when she hyperventilates herself to an arrhythmia at the frantic sound of his words. Remember, shouting = something bad is, was, or is about to happen. It's generally frowned upon with good reason. Whether in speech OR IN TYPE!!!!!!

    Stop, assess, and then act.

    You know what? That merits repeating. In bold. Maybe even in shouty caps for good measure.



    Because not every woman who covers her head is Muslim. Not everyone who smiles and nods understands. Not every person who is overweight is that way because they have VIP seating at the neighborhood Old Country Buffet. Someone with an age over 75 and/or grey hair amounting > 50% coverage is not automatically hard of hearing. And just because someone has a psych diagnosis noted in their H&P does not mean that they are unbalanced, irrational, or unable to sign their own consents.

    Generalities and jumping to conclusions make fools of us all.

    Remember to collect data, pause and take a moment to get to know folks and then proceed.

    So what brings this rambling blurb to the screen in front of you? Simple.

    You clicked on the article title. Duh.

    But! There is, of course, a story. Always a story. What makes it special is the fact this is not the first time I have seen something like this happen, but it is the first time a patient and I had a chat about it in any length.

    Our transporters mean well. They really, really do. But the trigger event was when the transporter, Kip, told my elderly gentleman patient that she would only be a minute while she went to fetch him some "toasty blankies".

    I'll give you a minute to let that one settle.

    Still with me? Good. You know that knee jerk sense of indignation you felt, just now? Yeah. Multiply it by like, a gajillion, sprinkle in a freshly harvested F5 tornado, garnish with a stick swatted hornets nest and you've got the thunderous expression on my patient's face. And I'm here to talk with him about his surgery that, according to my cohorts on the floor, he is none too keen on having. Something about being a crotchety old man or a stubborn old goat or some such. To be honest, it just shimmied through my "Icky Stupid Useless Report Info" filter.

    Brilliant. Perfect. Moving on.

    So I give him a moment while I access his consents at the wall computer and while I'm at it, I take a minute to refocus my own Chi. But before I can turn to begin speaking, I am caught by a dark grumble.

    "@$%!, when did I become a kid again." Now, there are many ways to respond to this with some being more "therapeutic" than others. But I like to rely on my personal favorite that I call the "Oh? Were you speaking?" noise of interest.


    "You know, I was an engineer in the Army and after that I worked for Boeing designing engine parts." We have eye contact working for us now, and as I raise an eyebrow and let out a low, impressed whistle, the sharp down turn of his mouth lifts ever so slightly.


    "Yeah," he gusts out a frustrated sigh and picks at his blankets. "But now I'm just "sweetie" and people are fetching me "blankies". What the hell happened?" As if on cue, Kip scuttles past but before she can enter the holding bay, I take the blankets from her, send her away, and swap out his covers.

    Maybe it was the fact one of the blankets seemed stuck together by the Static Force of the devil. I don't know. What I do know is that I heard my voice chirp, "So what you're saying is that calling you "SugarNiblets" right now would be less than appreciated?"

    (Aaaaand there goes that whole lack of filter thing again. Honestly, how have I not gotten fired?!)

    No sooner do the words escape than does my common sense politely clear its throat and shake its head. The air feels heavy for a second before a rumbling clap of his laughter eases the tension from my shoulders and the breath I most certainly hadn't been holding.

    "You could always call me Mike," he chuckles, extending his non splinted hand. I give him my own name and a crazy pet name to boot before we settle to conversation about his surgery.

    The issue had little to do with not trusting the surgeon or just being stubborn, but it had everything to do with the notion that not a soul had bothered to talk to him as the intelligent, still useful and fully aware 88 year old man he is. And as an engineer, he wanted details. Lots and lots of details.

    After he performed his own brand of assessment (you been at this job long? You don't look old enough to have been at this long.) and I apparently passed (Oh Mike, let's just say I no longer know my own natural hair color) we got down to talking some "shop". Plate styles, materials, specs, screw measurements, uses, reinforcement techniques, etc. To be truthful, I've never seen anyone's eyes light up at the idea of a countersink technique being used on their own bone before. We are just ramping up into an impassioned discussion of drill torque when Michelle shows up to introduce herself as the Primary Circulator and whisk him back to surgery.

    I leave them to it, wandering off to herd the doctor in to check on the patient one last time before surgery, before loitering just outside the bay door to be sure that everything is going well and his questions are being addressed, not placated and dismissed. He had suffered enough indignity for a day.


    I'm briefly called away to another holding bay but I managed to return just in time to watch him escorted away and down the hall. As they round the corner, I see his free hand wave over the bed, his voice trailing behind him.

    "Thanks again, TiggerToes!"

    Ah yes. My work here is done.

    Thank you for joining me on this rambling venture.

    The one, the only, the original,



    Seriously, like no editing was done on this. So....yeah, if it doesn't make sense, I blame the fact I was introduced to LiveWire Mountain Dew(who knew it came in orange?!) and have been in constant motion ever since. Well then I did a spot of editing because I realized things weren't right because spell check aligned with the Dark Lord Sauron, and then my ribbon, which was the article photo, got eaten by the editor gods. So yeah. There you go. And yes, I am whining.
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 24, '13
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    About CheesePotato

    Yes, I made the ribbon. I'm quite proud of it actually. Mostly because I showed it to my dear friend Jim and got the perfect rumpled brow of confusion and a grumbled, "I don't understand you."

    Joined: Jan '12; Posts: 241; Likes: 2,374
    OR circulating/scrub nurse; from US
    Specialty: Sleep medicine,Floor nursing, OR, Trauma

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  3. by   VivaLasViejas
    Oh. My. Goodness. A treat with a lesson in it.....or maybe, a lesson with a treat in it.

    Either way, it's a spectacular piece of writing that should be showcased in a much broader spotlight.....like the NY Times or "O" magazine. Brilliant as always, CP/TT!
  4. by   hecallsmeDuchess
    Haha! Brilliant article. I'm stealing 'SugarNiblets' for those who pretend that my name is a jumble of unpronounceable consonants (and I say pretend because I have the easiest name to pronounce yet some people always ask if they can call me something else). With your permission CP, I can now look all such people straight in their eyes and tell them "you can call me SugarNiblets."
  5. by   proud nurse
    I gotta steal Sugar Niblets, too.

    I've said some not so bright things in my nursing career. I'm getting better at catching myself at that very last moment, and being able to rethink it.
  6. by   twinmommy+2
    Ha, he sounds like some of my vets lol. You had me in tears. Thank you for writing this
  7. by   Pavolga
    Thank you for this article! It's fun and light hearted, but it does make you think.
  8. by   djules
    Very good article. It reminded me of when my 88 year young grandfather was in the hospital. He complained to me about the pet names, and the shouting he was subject to. But he also had this complaint and I've never forgotten it. He couldnt open a lot of the meal covers. Mostly on the liquids and he always ended up spilling it on himself. He couldn't see the packets clear enough to know the sugar from the salt. The tray would be brought in, placed on the table, and "Off they would run". I make it a point to access the needs of my patients along with their capabilities. Thanks to my Grandpa for showing me the obvious.
  9. by   Poochiewoochie
    Why do nurses and other medical people call their patients "sweetie"? Is it because they have forgotten their names?
  10. by   Spidey's mom

    Stealing "Remember, shouting = something bad is, was, or is about to happen. It's generally frowned upon with good reason."
  11. by   Whispera
    absolutely AWESOME!
  12. by   Skips
    LOVE IT. ....and for the record, I absolutely detest it when someone calls a patient "honey" or "sweetie" or anything else like it.
  13. by   GeneralJinjur
    Very nice! I occasionally call my patients sweetie or bub or kiddo, but they are 9-15 or so and they miss their mommy.
  14. by   Who?Me?
    Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you for helping us to remember that our patients are not just their diagnosis(es). The gentleman in 201 was a combat veteran in the Korean War an lost his leg not related to diabetes, but because he jumped on a bouncing betty to save a friend. Miss June on the 3rd floor can't hear you any longer, but the former English teacher, would love it if you wrote her a note rather than gesticulate wildly. Little Bobby, who is 5yo, thinks you are wonderful because you let him bring GorillaGorilla, his 3 foot high stuffed gorilla (of course) to the OR with him--and his parents think you rock.

    All of our patients are someones' mother, father, sister, brother, niece, nephew, neighbor, pastor, etc. Remember that the next time you refer to the "gallbladder" in 402.