Jump to content

From the Other Side of the Bed Rails - When the Nurse Becomes the Patient

Published

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

I had an interesting experience today. I walked into a hematology/oncology office ......... but this time as the patient. It’s strange how much different it feels when you, the nurse, suddenly become the patient. It looks much different through the patient’s eyes.

From the Other Side of the Bed Rails - When the Nurse Becomes the Patient

I looked around at the people in the waiting room, wondering....... what's wrong with that lady? Does she have cancer? Poor thing. Then I thought... Gee..... Maybe she's wondering the same thing about me. I wanted to reassure her that I was not really sick...... just something wrong with my blood. I don't have cancer...... nothing that bad...... But what do I have?? I have been asking myself this for several weeks...... since the day that I realized that something wasn't quite right. Then when my blood tests came back abnormal and my primary care physician referred me to a hematologist.... who just happens to be an oncologist........ that just seemed very strange. Hey...... I am the one who helps other people deal with this kind of information. But now it's me.

The nurse who took me back to the room was very nice. In fact, everyone was very nice. Very soft spoken and reassuring. Again, I wanted to tell them...... I'm not sick..... not really. Not like the other patients. But still, I wondered....... what will they find out is wrong with me?? Oh..... it's probably nothing. Nothing really bad....... or at least I hope and pray. Prayer......... been doing a whole lot of that lately. Oh I always pray.... but it's usually for other people.

Then came the questions. Oh I hope I remember to tell him everything. What was that he just said??? Hmmm........ I'm having trouble remembering the order in which things happened. I hope I don't sound like an idiot. I am a nurse and should know this stuff. Oh yeah..... I remember reading about that when I was googling things trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Good thing I brought my notebook with my list of questions. Now why did he ask that? Does he think I have that??? Oh my. He wants to order what test??? Why??? When will I get the results...........

Then I was ushered to the lab. Again....... the lab tech was very nice and reassuring. But when I saw all of the vials that she was going to fill with my blood......... I did get a little queasy. The tourniquet felt tight..... I turned my head. Ouch..... it did pinch a bit. How long is this going to take?? Sure.... I'm fine. I would sure be embarrassed if I fainted. I have to go where to get what other test?? Why? Where exactly do I go? When? OK. Come back in 3 weeks??? Seems like a long time to wait. OK. Sure that date is fine. Wonder what I'll find out then??????

This is not the first time I have been on the receiving end of medical care........on the other side of the bed rails, so to speak. Each time, I learn something new....something I can use to make me a better nurse..... treating others as I would wish to be treated. Today, I realized how much a reassuring and caring voice means to a patient who may be afraid of what they might hear or what they might experience. It might seem like a small thing when we as nurses take a few more minutes to offer compassionate caring......to meet the emotional needs of the patient.......but to the patient, it helps alleviate some of the worries and fears, thereby lowering the stress level. While we can't always offer a solution or reason why things are happening, we can always take the time to show genuine compassion.

As the Community Director, I'm here to help make your time here enjoyable. Please contact me if I can help you. I'd love to hear from you.

144 Articles   5,709 Posts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

93 Comment(s)

This was a well written perspective! Thanks for your insight.

I had an interesting experience today. I walked into a hematology/oncology office .........but this time as the patient. It's strange how much different it feels when you, the nurse, suddenly become the patient. It looks much different through the patient's eyes.

I looked around at the people in the waiting room, wondering.......what's wrong with that lady? Does she have cancer? Poor thing. Then I thought...gee.....maybe she's wondering the same thing about me. I wanted to reassure her, that I was not really sick......just something wrong with my blood. I don't have cancer......nothing that bad......but what do I have?? I have been asking myself this for several weeks......since the day that I realized that something wasn't quite right. Then when my blood tests came back abnormal and my primary care physician referred me to a hematologist....who just happens to be an oncologist........that just seemed very strange. Hey......I am the one who helps other people deal with this kind of information. But now it's me.

The nurse who took me back to the room was very nice. In fact, everyone was very nice. Very soft spoken and reassuring. Again, I wanted to tell then......I'm not sick.....not really. Not like the other patients. But still, I wondered.......what will they find out is wrong with me. Oh.....it's probably nothing. Nothing really bad.......or at least I hope and pray. Prayer.........been doing a whole lot of that lately. Oh I always pray....but it's usually for other people.

Then came the questions. Oh I hope I remember to tell him everything. What was that he just said??? Hmmm........I'm having trouble remembering the order in which things happened. I hope I don't sound like an idiot. I am a nurse and should know this stuff. Oh yeah.....I remember reading about that when I was googling things trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Good thing I brought my notebook with my list of questions. Now why did he ask that? Does he think I have that??? Oh my. He wants to order what test??? Why??? When will I get the results...........

Then I was ushered to the lab. Again.......the lab tech was very nice and reassuring. But when I saw all of the vials that she was going to fill with my blood.........I did get a little queasy. The tourniquet felt tight.....I turned my head. Ouch.....it did pinch a bit. How long is this going to take?? Sure....I'm fine. I would sure be embarrassed if I fainted. I have to go where to get what other test?? Why.......... Where exactly do I go? When? OK. Come back in 3 weeks??? Seems like a long time to wait. OK. Sure that date is fine. Wonder what I'll find out then??????

This is not the first time I have been on the receiving end of medical care........on the other side of the bed rails, so to speak. Each time, I learn something new....something I can use to make me a better nurse..... treating others as I would wish to be treated. Today, I realized how much a reassuring and caring voice means to a patient who may be afraid of what they might hear or what they might experience. It might seem like a small thing when we as nurses take a few more minutes to offer compassionate caring......to meet the emotional needs of the patient.......but to the patient, it helps alleviate some of the worries and fears, thereby lowering the stress level. While we can't always offer a solution or reason why things are happening, we can always take the time to show genuine compassion.

Would it be to intrusive of me to ask the author to let us know how she is doing? I feel a little concerned.

tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

Would it be to intrusive of me to ask the author to let us know how she is doing? I feel a little concerned.

Thanks for your concern. The author is waiting right now.......for results and more tests. Still trying to learn from this........waiting......waiting.....waiting..... That is the hard part. Of course the imagination thinks of all sorts of scenarios.

emmalou*

Specializes in Med/Surg; aged care; OH&S. Has 14 years experience.

Yes, thank you for sharing, I hope all goes well, waiting for test results can be an anxious time.

Chapis

Specializes in interested in NICU!!.

will say a prayer for you tonight. hope it all comes back good!

Had an experience with my youngest daughter being critically ill for a prolonged period of time...The waiting is the hardest part...As a nurse it is so much HARDER (our minds tend to run away with us, especially to the worst case scenario)...God grant you peace and ease of mind very very soon!

Take good care, and please let us know what happens.

Sending positive energy and thoughts your way....

Di

Take care. My thoughts and prayers are with you. It is quiet different when you or a family member is the patient. You stated it well

tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

While I really did not post this with the intention of seeking sympathy, I really appreciate all of the encouragement, prayers, and concerns expressed. What I wanted to do was to raise awareness of how it feels on "the other side of the bed rails". We come in contact with patients going through similar situations on a daily basis. It is part of our job....... But we need to always try to make it part of our job to try to see things through the eyes of our patients and their families and do everything we can to lower their level of stress and anxiety. We can't always take away the pain and suffering, but we can lessen it with true compassion.

I would like for members to feel free to share experiences when you or your family were "on the other side of the bed rails". How did you feel? How do you think your being a nurse affected the experience? How easy was it for you to be in the role of the patient?

Had an experience with my youngest daughter being critically ill for a prolonged period of time...The waiting is the hardest part...As a nurse it is so much HARDER (our minds tend to run away with us, especially to the worst case scenario)...God grant you peace and ease of mind very very soon!

Please feel free to share your feelings about this experience. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, God is a very big help all the time, but especially in times like this.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and He will direct your path."

nerdtonurse?, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU, Telemetry.

I have scoliosis. 3 curves, lumbar, thoracic, cervical. And I wore a Milwaukee brace for 4 years as a teenager. The years where I should have been the most carefree were instead a constant stream of doctor's appointments, specialists, and a near miss with a surgeon.

The one time I remember most is going to "back clinic" when I was 13. I was told to wait in a room, by myself, dressed only in my underwear and the brace. In comes my doc and 5 or 8 medical students. I was discussed and turned and prodded and my xrays compared to my back with pokes from their fingers. Never did anyone address me by name, or treat me like anything but "the 3 curve case." They left me standing there, practically naked, in tears, and went on to the next "case."

I obviously wasn't a nurse then, but when I have a patient now and the doc comes in acting like the patient's a lab experiment gone awry, I make a point of saying, "This is Joan, and she grows orchids." or "This is Mrs. Smith, and I think her kids go to the same school yours do, doc." I try to make them see a person, not a disease.

When something bad's happening, and the patient is scared, I take 10 seconds to explain, "Okay, Mr. Smith, your blood doesn't have as much oxygen as we'd like, so we're going to put a different mask on you you, and draw blood to see exactly what's going on." Because I know what it's like to be 13 years old and a group of strangers just discussed the risk of paralyzing you with surgery, deciding it was an "acceptable risk," and walking out of the room without explaining anything to you. I will never forget what that felt like, and it gave birth to my own personal nursing motto:

They may not remember what you said or did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

Thank you for sharing your story, nerdtonurse. I'm sure those are painful memories for you. You were able to learn from those experiences and have become a better nurse because of that.

There is a commercial on TV about an upcoming medical show called "Mercy". There is one line I really like. The nurse tells the doc.......you treat the disease...nurses treat the patient. That's what we need to remember. Our patients are real people just like us.......with all the same feelings that we have. We need to treat them as we would want to be treated. That is an important lesson that you learned in a very painful way at a young age.

I love your motto. How very true!!

In my situation. I wasn't the pt. my husband was. He was in the hospital for 2 months. It was touch and go for a while. Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. My biggest problem was I felt like nurses didn't listen to me or the physicians. I'm usually very quiet and not pushy, but I kept telling one nurse that my husband was bleeding internally. He had a subtotal colectomy. He had all the signs the night after surgery. His blood pressure was dropping, his HR was going up, he wasn't putting out any urine. The nurse just kept saying "his stomach is soft" when I questioned her. When I explained to her almost all of his large bowel had been removed and he could lose a lot of blood before his stomach felt firm, it still didn't phase her. I finally just demanded that she call the physician. It goes on from there. He did recover with a second surgery and and ileostomy. He was on the vent in ICU for 6 days. I always listen to my patients. If they tell me nurses have a hard time starting IV's in their rt arm, then I don't go there. I hope the experience has made me a better nurse. When a physician asks me "how is 224 doing", I will say your mean Mr. Jones. I probably could go on forever, but I won't. It is good to talk about it though.

I know you didn't start this for sympathy, but I think most of us would like to know how your are doing and how you continue to do.

Take care

Ginger's Mom, MSN, RN

Has 41 years experience.

As a cancer survivor, I can tell you it is hard to be on the other side of the bed. First of all everyone assumes you know everything because you are a nurse. Secondly you remember all your patient's horror stories.

I experienced great nursing care and awful nursing care, it was an eye opener. Hope all comes out well for you.

Erindel RN, ADN, BSN

Specializes in medical psych and hospice. Has 6 years experience.

The doc may be able to cure the patient, but the nurse will forever heal the patient.... I too have been on the other side of the bed rail. I have a blood disorder that I am treated for. I just recently had a hole closed in my heart and I had some of the best nurses ever. I was so pleased I wrote the floor that I was on a thank you letter for having such an amazing set of nurses working there. I try to treat every patient I come across the way I would want to be treated. Good luck with your results and god bless.......

tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

pednursedeb.........thank you for sharing your story. I am so glad your husband recovered. Sounds like a very frightening and frustrating experience. It's a good thing you became assertive.

When my dad was in the hospital several times last year before he died, I felt like I had to walk a very fine line. I was his advocate, but I didn't want to become one of "those pushy know-it-all" family members. But it was my responsibility to look out after my dad and make sure he received the care he needed. Those experiences really helped me to see it from the families viewpoint. Of course, I do think a family member with a medical/nursing background will have a better handle on the situation.

tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

As a cancer survivor, I can tell you it is hard to be on the other side of the bed. First of all everyone assumes you know everything because you are a nurse. Secondly you remember all your patient's horror stories.

I experienced great nursing care and awful nursing care, it was an eye opener. Hope all comes out well for you.

Congratulations on being a cancer survivor. I'm sure you have many stories that we could learn from.

Please don't take offense to this...... but today I had to travel to another city to get more bloodwork.......a test that only this hospital does in the area. When I was checking in.......the admissions lady looked at my information. She said......."Dr. *******........ He's an oncologist. Do you have cancer?" Well that just sounded so very strange to me. I quickly said "No!" But to just hear her ask me that question...so bluntly.

I had to report to the lab at 8:00, which I found strange since it is just a blood test and was done in the outpatient lab. The tech told me that she had to call when I got there to make sure a certain person was there to run the test and to set up the equipment. The blood has to be processed within 15 minutes of being drawn. Well now that just made me feel real special. I sure didn't feel too special when I saw all the empty tubes that she was about to fill with my blood. Although she only stuck me once, she did have to fish around a bit. Not good. My stomach was a little queasy already. Hopefully this is all the blood I will need to donate for awhile. Now to await the results.

Again......waiting is something our patients do every day.