Bad experience as a patient

  1. I'm a senior nursing student and I had a bad experience being a patient last year. I went for a septoplasty & graft placement for my nose. I was under general anesthesia, which I had never had before. When waking up in the PACU, my mind was the first thing that turned back on (my head was still extremely heavy and I couldn't open my eyes yet). I was shivering heavily and I noticed that I felt that my heart rate was slowing down. My mind being foggy, I tried to count it but I didn't have any watch or clock to my disposal.

    Suddenly, my RR slowed down so much that I felt I couldn't breathe anymore. My eyes sprung open and I yelled "help, I can't breathe, help!!" all over the unit. I had never had a panic attack before but it felt as if I was going to stop breathing – it's very frightening.
    (Days past this incident I realized that this is the general feeling many patients get when they have a cardiovascular event, or asthma/COPD patients).

    A nurse standing about 10 feet away from my bed was looking at me with a blank expression. After a 5 sec or so, another nurse ran over to me and helped calm me down to breathe normally. I couldn't believe I freaked out because I'm normally not a neurotic or anxious person. The nurse who was looking at me and doing nothing earlier slowly walked over. She told me she was my nurse. I asked her why she didn't come to help me. She said that she wasn't obligated to help me, and she thought I wasn't in real danger. There wasn't a flicker of sympathy or caring in her attitude and facial expression. In my foggy state of mind, I was like "OK.." I didn't understand.

    In the rest of my stay in the PACU she let me to walk back and forth by myself to the bathroom, in which I basically wobbled the entire time.
    Later when I came home I became furious. In a very vulnerable moment, in which I had no critical thinking abilities being post-anesthesia, this nurse hurt my feelings personally and my trust pretty badly. I can't believe someone like that is employed by a high ranking hospital. I sent a complaint to the hospital, and they said she was a float nurse and they could not find out what her name was.

    I try to take this experience to the hospital I precept in. Whenever I feel a bit annoyed with a patient, I think of this incidence, which I wish on no-one, and turn my thoughts around. Patients are in one of their most vulnerable states in the hospital and they at the very least deserve quality care and a genuine smile.
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  2. 31 Comments

  3. by   traumaRUs
    Moved to Pt/Colleague Relations. Very sorry for this experience.
    Since you were just coming out of general anesthesia, is it possible you misinterpreted this?
  4. by   TriciaJ
    They are everywhere. The fact that she was a float nurse tells the story. She didn't know what to do, so she blew you off. Some people do that. I've worked with a lot of people (some of them even nurses) who handle things by not handling them, when they are unsure.

    It's a good takeaway for you. No matter how out of your element you feel, always respond by doing something. Use your assessment skills, your interpersonal skills, whatever you have at your disposal. When all else fails, find someone to help you.
  5. by   Haarlem
    Quote from traumaRUs
    Moved to Pt/Colleague Relations. Very sorry for this experience.
    Since you were just coming out of general anesthesia, is it possible you misinterpreted this?
    I wish I did. My husband, out of his own initiative, told me that he thought she had a very distant/aloof demeanor.
    My nurse did not even call my husband in until the last 10-15minutes in the PACU. I had been there for 2 hours. When he asked at the nurses' station why he wasn't allowed in earlier, they said that he was allowed in much earlier. It was all just weird. :/
  6. by   Haarlem
    You would think that it's a human trait to try to help another person when they are in distress, even if you don't know what to do, even if it's just showing empathy and supporting words. I just hate that she chose nursing as her profession if this is her personality. Or I hope it was only a phase, and she adjusted her attitude and care by now.
  7. by   JKL33
    I'm sorry this happened, or that you felt that way.

    I really don't see any benefit to dwelling on it aside from, as you said, remembering to try to see things from others' POV when you start practicing as a nurse. Fair warning, though, you won't be able to anticipate everything every patient could want/expect based on their own perceptions and life experiences. You also aren't going to prevent a person here and there from feeling that you shouldn't have chosen nursing as your profession, I guarantee it.

    On the other hand, if she said, "I have no obligation to help you" then maybe she actually is the worst nurse ever. I have never once heard any nurse say that to a patient in my entire career.
  8. by   MunoRN
    I'm sorry that was your experience, and while it's completely possible this was an uncaring and generally bad nurse, some of this could use some clarifying. The feeling that you can't breath normally is pretty common when common out of anesthesia or with opiates and benzos, the respiratory depressive effects can be a very unusual sensation, but that doesn't mean that you are in need of emergent interventions. As a less experienced nurse, my initial reaction was to show complete if not excessive empathy, the problem with that is it just makes things worse. A patient who is anxious or scared looks to their nurse to see if their fear is justified, if their nurse is just as (unnecessarily) freaked out as they are, then it only reinforces the patient's belief that they should be freaking out, which potentially could itself progress into potential harm to the patient. Typically the most empathetic thing you can do is express that the patient doesn't need to scared by showing that everything is under control, which can come across as uncompassionate.
  9. by   MunoRN
    Quote from Haarlem
    I wish I did. My husband, out of his own initiative, told me that he thought she had a very distant/aloof demeanor.
    My nurse did not even call my husband in until the last 10-15minutes in the PACU. I had been there for 2 hours. When he asked at the nurses' station why he wasn't allowed in earlier, they said that he was allowed in much earlier. It was all just weird. :/
    That's been the standard rule at every PACU I've worked in, been a patient in, or had a family as a patient in. Typically family aren't allowed back until just before the patient leaves, or the patient is brought out to the waiting room or an exam room and that is when family is first allowed to visit.
  10. by   OCNRN63
    Quote from traumaRUs
    Moved to Pt/Colleague Relations. Very sorry for this experience.
    Since you were just coming out of general anesthesia, is it possible you misinterpreted this?
    My thoughts exactly.
  11. by   Haarlem
    @JKL33
    I guess I hope I will do more for my patient should they ever feel that way. And it's true that someone may catch me on a really bad day and may think I shouldn't be a nurse - thanks for providing insight. I will do my best to try to prevent that, even though it may happen anyways.
  12. by   Haarlem
    Quote from MunoRN
    I'm sorry that was your experience, and while it's completely possible this was an uncaring and generally bad nurse, some of this could use some clarifying. The feeling that you can't breath normally is pretty common when common out of anesthesia or with opiates and benzos, the respiratory depressive effects can be a very unusual sensation, but that doesn't mean that you are in need of emergent interventions. As a less experienced nurse, my initial reaction was to show complete if not excessive empathy, the problem with that is it just makes things worse. A patient who is anxious or scared looks to their nurse to see if their fear is justified, if their nurse is just as (unnecessarily) freaked out as they are, then it only reinforces the patient's belief that they should be freaking out, which potentially could itself progress into potential harm to the patient. Typically the most empathetic thing you can do is express that the patient doesn't need to scared by showing that everything is under control, which can come across as uncompassionate.
    Thanks for explaining this - I did not know this about nursing in the PACU. However, whether the feeling of being unable to breathe is psychological or physiological, it's still real for the patient and they cannot make out which one it is. I personally just needed someone to guide me through that minute of fear. But I do get your point. Thank you.
  13. by   Haarlem
    Quote from MunoRN
    That's been the standard rule at every PACU I've worked in, been a patient in, or had a family as a patient in. Typically family aren't allowed back until just before the patient leaves, or the patient is brought out to the waiting room or an exam room and that is when family is first allowed to visit.
    I also did not know this. The person we spoke to just before leaving maybe have gotten it wrong, about when my hb was allowed in. My nurse probably called him in when it was time.
    You guys have made me feel better about this experience.
  14. by   jdub6
    Re:family visiting in PACU obviously none of us can know the policy at that hospital. Often families are allowed back when a patient reaches a certain stage of recovery and the time that takes can vary. Also they may not have known he was waiting until then. finally, in all acute care areas in which I have experience families/visitors may not be allowed when a patient is unstable or having emotional/psych issues-perhaps with your anxiety they had concerns and wanted you more awake (even though your husband could have helped calm you, sometimes visitors just feed the anxiety and become anxious themselves).

    Having you walk to the bathroom is often a good thing-its good to walk as much/soon as possible and often necessary for you to be at baseline before leaving PACU. You may have looked more stable than you felt-did you tell anyone you felt "wobbly" or ask for assistance?

    Finally, the moment one wakes from anesthesia is often scary and people can have a wide variety of emotional and physical issues. A float nurse often is not completely comfortable where they are especially in specialty areas like PACU. The nurse may have been anxious herself and focusing first on assessing you, watching the vital signs and trying to figure out what was going on and how to manage it. Being "distant" can mean someone isn't sure of themselves and is trying to just maintain safety and document right, and really isn't able to be supportive because they just don't have the experience to know what you need or what may be happening emotionally for you. It is very appropriate that another nurse, presumably a regular PACU nurse, stepped in to help as she recognized what was happening and knew how to handle it.

    This experience in my opinion is a great example of why its not great to float nurses to areas they have not been oriented to. Perhaps you can ammend your complaint to focus not so much on the person but the system-the fact that your PACU nurse was a float who obviously wasn't comfortable or skilled in that environment. Or, maybe she was just a crap nurse. We can't know since we weren't there and don't have all the info. IMO its still not a bad thing for the hospital to get patient feedback to support what nurses have been saying all along-floating to areas where one has no orientation isn't good practice.

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