The Nurse as a Patient

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    Many of us know how to be good nurses, but are unaware of the actual patient experience. I wanted to share some of the good/bad aspects of health care from a patient's view. Moreover, I believe that having both the patient's and the nurse's point of view enhances my nursing ability. I tried to be both humorous and honest in my article.

    The Nurse as a Patient

    As healthcare professionals, we may forget how to be a patient. We love our patients, we sometimes get frustrated with our patients, and occasionally we will BE patients. I had the opportunity to be an inpatient at the hospital I worked at. I found out several things during this experience I would like to share with you. Perhaps you can relate.

    1 ) The ER is scary, and while my nurse was pleasant, the doctor intimidated me. The waiting room was busy with frightened patients, angry patients, and crying children. I could barely concentrate on my forms and felt terrible and dizzy and nauseated. I had just found out my H & H was very low when I attempted to donate blood. The doctor looked at me like I had lost my mind, which is understandable. I had just thought I was

    2 ) I admired the amazing IV and bloodwork skills, but finally understood how uncomfortable the IV catheter is in the antecubital space. It was like a huge splinter that annoyed me whenever I made the mistake of moving my arm. Once I was on the floor, I had my RN re-stick me in the forearm. She said she understood how I felt—she’d had IV’s placed in the AC too.

    3 ) It is very embarrassing when the hospitalist ordered an occult blood sample x 3. I did not want my caretakers to see my poop. I never thought twice when I collected stools from patients, but I felt embarrassed.

    4 ) I didn’t want food before the NPO status, but as soon as I knew I couldn’t eat, I felt ravenously hungry.

    5 ) Everything and everyone looks different from a supine position.

    6 ) Hospital gowns are horrible. The prep for my procedure was horrible. Having funny, compassionate nurses and nursing assistants make the most awful things a little better.

    7 ) The IV “colonoscopy cocktail” is the best thing ever—except it makes you tell the whole truth to whoever will listen. If there’s something you don’t want everyone to know, plan your visitors accordingly.

    8 ) Having a list of medications you’re taking makes life so much easier for everyone involved.

    9 ) Laughter is good medicine. I know everyone differs, but I loved laughing with my coworkers. It calmed me down and made me feel normal—even in the horrible gown, even when I was choking down

    10 ) It is very hard to look good in the hospital. My hair was a rat’s nest, I was very pale, and and my skin felt oily. I worried about how I smelled. I wished I had a razor, or had taken care of shaving my legs before my hospital visit. I wanted my teeth brushed before anyone assessed me, every day. As you may know, assessments happen all the time.

    11 ) You can’t lie about your weight when you get weighed daily. Nor can you hide the smell of your GI bleed poop.

    12 ) I realized that to be a good and competent nurse, I needed to “practice what I preached”. I took better care of myself because I was aware of how easily health can slip away. I know it seems obvious, but I also know I’m not the only nurse that does this.

    I realized how truly exposed you feel as a patient. I still get nervous going to the doctor—even for check-ups. Kindness, professionalism, and humor matter. I think that my experience as a patient made me a better nurse.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jul 1, '15
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    About rnsheri, BSN

    rnsheri has '3' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Med/Surg, orthopedics, urology'. Joined Sep '12; Posts: 54; Likes: 294.

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    31 Comments

  3. by   WinterLilac
    Thank you for sharing your insight as a patient rnsheri. I have never spent a night in hospital so would have absolutely NO idea of how it actually feels. You really explained some aspects in such an honest and clear way, I was imagining myself as patient, providing stool samples or looking up at nursing staff instead of usually looking at the patient in bed. Again, I really enjoyed your post. Thank you
  4. by   TheBlackDogWaits
    Perspective is everything.....​Thank you for this.
  5. by   Tenebrae
    very cool
  6. by   NursesRmofun
    I sooooo agree with you OP! I was there too last year. However, I was not in a hospital where I knew anyone. I also felt the staff could have been much better in the ER I went to....and their talents were not good, no matter where they put the stick! ACK! Ouch! I had a BIG bruise for weeks afterward! I totally agree about the embarrassment and...one thing you didn't mention...that sometimes nurses do not get why we are not doing as well as they think we should and some start to think (I've been there) the patient may be a little withholding with what they can do. I learned that sometimes, though the nurse may expect more...that is ALL you've got....Not saying that applies to all patients.

    Yes...we need to take care of ourselves! I learned that too!
  7. by   mmc51264
    I was a patient in Feb. I had a GREAT experience other than one nurse. My IV was in my hand and it was sore for three weeks after they took it out.
    My least favorite thing was them trying to wean me off O2. Ever time I fell asleep, it went off. My RR is naturally very low (8-10) so with IV pain meds. I guess I needed it. I finally convinced them to leave me on 2L so I could get a little sleep.
  8. by   No Stars In My Eyes
    Zofran didn't even begin to touch the extreme, seemingly endless waves of nausea and retching after my surgery; apparently my body did not like the morphine they were giving me. If I hadn't felt so truly miserable I would have laughed when, after several hours of the room spinning (and the Zofran still not working), the nurse said to me, as I continued with the uncontrollable frequent dry heaves.....
    "Honey, you have got to stop this."

    I was completely flabbergasted.

    Uh, well,.....yuh. You think I'm enjoying this? That I can just..... stop?
  9. by   LadyFree28
    I know I became a better nurse when I had a major medical issue seven years ago-some personnel were excellent, good, bad, or indifferent; I'll never forget how I felt.

    Great article!
  10. by   chicookie
    I actually ended up on the first floor I ever worked on with my preceptor as my nurse. While I will always love her, I almost killed her that day. My 102 fever, elevated white count and non stop puking plus uncontrolled abd pain were in her words "stress-related". I almost flipped out.
    What surprised me was the one nurse I couldn't stand when I worked there turned out to be the best nurse I had the week I was there.
    I also let a student draw a blood culture. Never again! I have viens that are so easy a baby could draw from them. The student went right through it. It hurt like I don't know what!
  11. by   TheGooch
    Is there a way to just report the person for posting spam?
  12. by   JustBeachyNurse
    Quote from TheGooch
    Is there a way to just report the person for posting spam?
    Report the post admin takes care of all posts and bans the account
  13. by   kickatthedark
    I was a patient in the renal unit about 5 years ago. I was there 5 days recovering from a minor operation. It was the first time I experienced being a patient since becoming a nurse. I work medical/surgical. One thing i realized was how crappy it is in a shared room when roomates have visitors at ALL HOURS. The nursing care I received was good. I didn't like poeple doing "proceedures" on me. I emptied my own JP and wrote it down for the nurses. When the order was given for the foley to come out, I asked the nurse for a syringe to deflate the baloon and took it out myself. I realized how private of a person I am. The nurses were great, allowed me as much privacy/autonomy as possible. They seemed to appreciate when I did things for myself. Hardest part was not helping nurses with other patients when I could see they were super busy, and I was feeling ok.
  14. by   weirdscience
    My experiences as a patient: do not put an IV in my hand. I have ginormous forearm veins, use them. When I say Zofran doesn't work, give me Phenergan. I'm not trying to get high (although blissfully sleeping when you've been nauseated is quite nice), Zofran just gives me a rip-roaring headache and no relief.

    I went to a doc who works in my hospital the other day and when he found out I worked nights, he said, "I haven't yelled at you when you called me, have I?"

    Um, no. I wouldn't be seeing you for my own medical treatment if you had.

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