explaining med's to pt's/families...

  1. I am on orientation at a large trauma hospital. I come from a small rural ER.

    We had a "code" brought in the last time I was working. I was "tasking" and realized right away that although I got a good 18g in this guy I was pretty useless because I didn't know where ANY equipment was located. So after a few more resources showed up I stood in the back of the room helping to record and eventually doing chest compressions. During the code they brought in the wife. She was (understandably) upset. She was right next to me. The doc would call for "succ's" then "epi" then "atropine" then "bicarb" then "dopamine" and unfortunately "levo"

    The wife wanted an explanation for all of these medications. I think I did an ok job and in the long run she wouldn't remember too much anyway (her husband died) But, I was grossly unprepared to explain why we were giving some of these drugs--I wanted to say "because it's a code and we throw anything we can at him":stone

    I thought a thread on "common folk":smilecoffeecup: ER med's explanations would be a GREAT help.

    Please add to the list and give your best family/pt explanation of what the med does and or how it works...


    (keep adding to the list)
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  3. by   bargainhound
    I think that actually it would be better to not try to explain to her
    all about each med.
    What about just trying to reassure/comfort her and simply tell her
    the doctor is ordering meds to try to save his life.
  4. by   scrmblr
    Quote from bargainhound
    I think that actually it would be better to not try to explain to her
    all about each med.
    What about just trying to reassure/comfort her and simply tell her
    the doctor is ordering meds to try to save his life.
    I am just looking for your ideas on what you say to any pt as far as explaining medications go...

    reopro is a platelet inhibitor...it makes blood less 'sticky' for example.

    I think it was her way of coping in a very horrifying situation. She wasn't really processing anything. I just used this as an example. It could be in any situation...Like how you explain abx to a mom with a child with otitis.
  5. by   nrsang97
    Sometimes explaning the meds to family is a good thing. It helps them understand what we are doing for their loved one. Maybe explain morphine,dilaudid,toradol, as medication for pain. Simple laymans terms. Dopamine helps the heart pump better or more efficently. Succs helps relax the throat muscles so that its easier to put the tube in the throat to help your s/o breathe. Lidocane and Amiodarone help control the heart rhythm. Levo helps raise the BP. Dobutamine the same as dopamine helps the heart pump more efficently. Bicarb helps correct any acid/base disorder.

    I was a nursing student when my grandfather had his CABG and his nurse would quiz me on the meds he was receiving. He gave me a great explanation of many of them. They were in laymans terms. Sometimes family needs to understand exactly what we are doing for their loved one. This is some family's way of coping. So I think its great that you are asking about giving explanations of meds to family. Those are the ones I use frequently. You don't need to give more than a simple explanation like that to help them understand.
  6. by   PamperedRN
    Most of the time if a family member wants to know what an emergency drug does they want a simple answer. Dopamine raises BP, heparin thins blood, succ's paralyes pt briefly, morphine usually for pain, epi atropine speed up hr, lido amnioadarone change heart rhythm back to normal. In an emergency situation the simple answer works best. More teaching on a drug can be done after the code is over if family still want it. A code is not the time or place to try to explain in depth what and why a drug does what it does. I agree with bargain hound assure the family that all is being done to help pt. Assure them that they are getting good care and we are trying to save them.

    In situations where you have time to more thoroughly explain a drug stay on the simple side of things to the lay person. Most people don't care about the mechanism of action on a drug. They simply want to know the basics of what a drug does and side effects. My hospital has a program that you look up drugs and print general info about the drug. This is handy because you give it to the pt and they have a copy of what the drug is, what it does, side effects and interactions. Not to indepth, kinda like the info you get when you go to the pharmacy. Hope this helps.
  7. by   AfloydRN
    I usually do not give the drugs name and say something like we are giving him this med to slow his heart rate down, or we are putting in a central line so we can administer more meds. I try to explain why we do what we do. In my experience it works well.
  8. by   scrmblr
    I think I posted this without really thinking I just used the code situation as an example...I'm really curious as to how you explain meds to pt's in any typical ER setting...

    Like the mom who's barking child is recieving a racemic epi neb and IM decadron...Or the pt who's B/P is 210/110 and is getting metoprolol q5min and says "exactly how does this medication work?"
  9. by   AM-RN
    I try to be very general with my med explanations. When the chest pain pt asks why he is getting metoprolol, I answer with "it helps your heart be more efficient." Generally I get a nod and an "okay," and we're on to other questions (what do all those numbers on the monitor mean?). When I was brand-spankin new I would give very detailed explanations and patient's would follow my explanation with "but how does it help me?"