When you're on a date... and run into a previous patient

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    Two days ago, I was unexpectedly approached by a patient I had worked with over a month ago… while I was on a date. Here’s what happened.

    When you're on a date... and run into a previous patient

    It was my day off. I met my date for "coffee or drinks" at an eclectic little side shop downtown. The conversation was stimulating and not the typical first date interrogations I've experienced in the past. We talked for an hour and then left the coffee shop to go for a walk at the nearby park.... And that's when it happened.

    A tall man in a dark blue suit approached me and asked "excuse me, you look familiar do I know you?"

    I told the man we didn't know each other but I introduced myself and my date. When he heard my name, he said "Oh, now I remember, you were the nurse that helped me when I had my heart attack" Bam. Zing. Ring-a-ding-ding. I suddenly remembered him... and you know what else... I seemed like a hero to my date. A hero. Knocked it out of the park.

    We only had a very brief less than 1 hour interaction as he came into the ER and we rushed him as quickly as we could to the cath lab. There were probably 8 people in the room doing various things (lines, labs, EKG, monitor, pads, shaving, consents, etc.) I remember while I was working on him, I did my best to stay at the head of the bed and explain everything that was going on and what to expect going forward. There wasn't a social worker on shift so I had to also call his extended family which was one of his biggest concerns. We gave him the meds, cardiology was finally ready for him and then just like that he was gone. I didn't think I would ever see him again, especially since I live in a big city.

    However, I was pleasantly surprised to meet him again. It was perfect timing actually. I was trying to explain that nurses do a lot more than just give pills and follow doctors orders when he approached me. He shook my hand, told me that they "put a few stents in", he stayed a couple nights and then he was discharged home. And then he thanked me and walked away. My date asked me if I paid the man to say those things. I told her I wasn't above doing that.... But it was genuine interaction. I'm not sure she believed me.

    Experiences like this are so refreshing and rare. I think we as nurses tend to cling to the negative experiences and interactions. Just the last shift I worked, I was called every name in the book while taking care of a very intoxicated patient. Everyday there's a nurse out there taking some kind of undeserved abuse from a patient. And while the importance of nursing and the impact on people's lives was drilled into our heads (or at least my head) in nursing school, I forget every now and then. And it's nice to be reminded.

    I should remember the woman who stopped me at Target and told me I worked with her father when he had his stroke. (He's apparently still smoking and was currently at the casino according to the daughter). I should be grateful that a future chef in culinary school who cut himself on two different occasions and needed stitches remembers me and is excited to have "the fanny pack nurse" again. Because they are proof of this positive impact that nursing can provide. And this is why I became a nurse.

    I doubt I'll see that patient again, but I've been wrong before. However, I do think I'll see my date again.... But I've also... been wrong before...
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
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    About stephen1219

    I've been a nurse for 4 years in the emergency department. I think I'm more funny that I actually am.

    Joined: Mar '13; Posts: 14; Likes: 90
    Specialty: 1 year(s) of experience

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    21 Comments

  3. by   Kitiger
    I've also seen former patients out in the "real world" who didn't stop to talk. I didn't show recognition, either. Some people don't want to relive the experience. Also, if they are with a friend, maybe they don't want that friend to know that they had been in the hospital. I let the (former) patient take the lead.

    I think that's cool that a former patient recognized you & thanked you. I've had the same type of experience, and it feels good. (Although I have been known to blurt out, "Oh, I didn't recognize you with clothes on." Oops.)
  4. by   ruby_jane
    Maybe it's my history - before I was a nurse, I did HIV testing and counseling back in the bad old 90s. So whether I recognize someone or not out in the real world, I usually smile and walk away before they have time to remember me. It is cool that someone recognized you and thanked you!
  5. by   Nightshade1972
    I'm not a nurse (longterm chronic illness patient, which is why I enjoy reading this forum). However, I worked retail for a decade, and during the last year of that career, I had several hospitalizations/surgeries. I ran into a couple of my regular customers, who were apparently workers at the hospital where I stayed! I was kinda flattered that they recognized me in my nightgown, loose hair (I kept it in a ponytail at work), looking like hell given what I'd just been through. We had a nice chat, then we each went on with our day. :-)
  6. by   bmck97004
    I worked in a Day Surgery unit in a small town for 25 years. On numerous occasions, I ran into a former patient, usually in the grocery store. Since my patients were awake and discharged the same day, they often remembered me, but since we saw upwards of 30 patients a day, I often didn't remember them! I just told them they didn't want me to remember them because that either meant that they were frequent fliers, or something very memorable happened while they were in the hospital, but that I was glad to see them and glad they did well.
  7. by   beckysue920
    There have been a few times that I have encountered former patients in the outside world. One of the ones which caused me almost to smile...a darkside smile, was a guy I saw at a funeral visitation. Of course he recognized me, when he remembered, he blushed a beautiful shade of crimson. Working in an HIV and STD clinic will elicit that response!

    In the clinic setting, a patient came in, I knew this fellow in a business setting. One day, I took him into my office to let him know that I would never discuss his being a patient with anyone. He seemed relieved.
  8. by   Davey Do
    Refreshing article Stephen!

    And Stephen, most of us do think we're funnier than we really are, but just by you saying that makes you a funny guy- with good insight!
  9. by   3ringnursing
    I remember when I worked cardiac when I was a new nurse and a man approached my husband and I in a toy store around Christmas time (he was with his wife).

    He said, "Hi! Do you remember me?". Of course I didn't - he reminded me, and I said the stupidest thing I ever could have said: "Oh yeah ... I didn't recognize you with your clothes on!"
  10. by   AceOfHearts<3
    I used to work in a town about an hour from where I lived so I really didn't give much thought to running into former patients outside of work. One night on my way home from a horrible shift at work I stopped for a bite to eat at my guilty pleasure fast food restaurant. I drove past this restaurant on my to and from work every single shift, but since it's not healthy I restricted myself to stopping only once or twice a month if I've had a particularly horrible shift. Normally I would get my food to go since I had a 45 minute drive home from that point. One of the few times I decided to actually eat there I was sitting in a booth chowing down when I hear a voice say "she was my nurse at such and such hospital". I have to admit my heart just sank and I sat there praying to not be disturbed. I was able to catch a glance in the direction when leaving with my peripheral vision and was so happy they did not attempt to come up to. I also thought to myself they most certainly should NOT have been in that restaurant with the issue they came in with.
  11. by   ladyandthetiger
    I often get completely unfamiliar faces rushing up to me in random public places proclaiming "He is so much better now!" or "Mum was just discharged last week!" As an ICU nurse it is not really surprising we don't recognise patients and their families - unless they are long stays, as my focus is very much on the patient and the monitors, drains, IVT pumps and even while I provide comfort and support to family members. Patients look heaps different with ETTs, multiple invasive lines, drains, dressings etc.
    So when I get these random thank you'd I smile and resort to generic responses "I'm so pleased to hear that. It was a pleasure to help such a nice patient. Give them my best"
  12. by   Silver_Rik
    I work in a psychiatric hospital. We have strict policy about outside interactions with former patients. We are not supposed to initiate any interaction or acknowledgement if we run across a former patient in public.
  13. by   Silver_Rik
    A few weeks ago the patient I was taking care of for MedSurg clinical started asking questions about the psych hospital. We are part of the same network, and send patients there for medical treatment. I wondered if he had been one of our patients, because I couldn't figure out why he was asking me of all people. It turned out they were looking at transferring him to the traumatic brain injury long-term care unit at my work. Just out of the blue coincidence that he picked me to ask about the place.
  14. by   Silver_Rik
    A couple of stories from the other side. A coworker claimed she remembered my dad from the nursing home where she used to work. He had been a resident there for only three days three years previously, before being admitted to the hospital and then hospice.

    Another time someone came into my office to rent apartment from me when I worked in property management. We started talking and it turned out she was one of the nurses at the facility where i'd had a colonoscopy.

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