i was in the process of discharging a patient. i thanked the patient and the family for being so wonderful and helpful to the staff. it was true; the whole situation was awful for the family and they all came through it like real troopers. the way their faces lit up, i could see that they were pleased.
later in the shift i had to discharge a patient who was very difficult to care for. the patient was very demanding, very miserable and made sure that we all knew it. the family was worse, if that was possible. when i did the discharge for that patient, i was decidedly glad they were leaving, but obviously in a very different way.
i was curious about how they'd react to being thanked in the same way as the patient i genuinely liked, so i spent some time thanking the patient for helping us treat her and for her family for being so attentive and supportive during her stay.
i would've thought they'd behave as unpleasantly as they had throughout the entire stay, but to my amazement, they all acted surprised and ... relieved. suddenly i had an epiphany -- they'd all been terribly distraught and were extremely anxious over the course of the patient’s illness. being reassured that they were doing the right thing and being helpful to the patient and assisting the staff was what they'd needed to hear. i regretted that i hadn't said it all a lot sooner.
i forget sometimes how foreign this hospital world is to a lot of people. suzanne gordon in nursing against the odds reminded me how helpless and dependent the patient feels, how much they want to please their caregivers as well as get their needs taken care of.
i forgot how much power i have as a nurse. i might be frowning because i’m trying to read a doc’s handwriting or because i’m trying to prioritize my tasks, but the patient interprets that frown personally.
i forget how intuitive patients are to my mood. if i’m having a busy day, i might not think it shows, but the patients do notice.
i forgot how important it is to reassure the patients that their needs are not unusual nor are they being demanding when they ask us to accommodate those needs.
i forgot what it's like to be a patient and be dying for a drink of water after being npo for what seems like forever, but unable to lift a finger to get it myself.
i forgot what it's like to be a worried family member, sitting for hours and hours in a waiting room while my loved one sleeps, worrying about my job, the bills, the house, whoever's at home, and the patient, forgetting or unable to eat, drink, exercise, or bathe.
i'm glad of the reminder that patients and their families, no matter how challenging to work with, are stressed with scrambling to adapt to a new normal. i'm going to thank more of my patients and their families for doing their best to get through a horrible time in their lives. they need to know that their efforts to adjust and assist have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
Last edit by sirI on Aug 1, '08