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on being the patient and critical


Specializes in Med/surg, ER/ED,rehab ,nursing home.

I wish to bring to your attention my concerns regarding my care in ICU and surgical floor. First of all I have been a nurse for many years, nearly 20 in a hospital setting. Due to my internal sutures leaking and causing collaspe of my right lung, I ended up in intensive care. Some of the nursing staff were great to me and my family. But some were down right mean. No other word for it. I was doing well, up walking in hall till 5 days post op. Then I had c/o severe pain in my right back. Surgical site was on the left chest wall. I was not getting much pain relief, was feeling SOB, and became anxious. I did not know what was wrong with me. No one seemed to care that I was in distress, so I had to request the nursing supervisor to get help. For some reason, the doctor did not come to see me during this time. Three days later chest tubes are inserted, the CT cancelled, and I was back in surgery. Based on the smell and color of the chest tube drainage. My stomach/esophagus sutures had leaked. So I was back in surgery to repair this, as well as an eventual two surgerys to remove infection from my right lung, and a trach. What should have been 12 days in the hospital became almost a month, with over a month in rehab to get me off the vent. I was kept drugged pretty much most of the time. Not that my extreme pain was relieved, IT WASN'T. In my mind I was seeing demons, felt trapped inside the glass lava lamp.

Some of the nurses were kind to me, talking to me and just letting me know what was going on. Not that my poor brain could remember anything beyond a few minutes, but I want you to know that this was a help. One of my nurses had the smell of Ramen Noodles on her fingers. (this is hard to get off no matter how much you scrub)

She took time to talk to me. This helped with my fear. THANKYOU. I truely did not know where I was, who I was, or what was happening. Now for some of the others, one scrubbed my breasts so hard I felt like sandpaper was being used. Some of the nurses took away my call light. Some made fun of me when I would lose it. I pray that no one of you or your family would ever have to be in this position. I was not the easiest to car for with everything that could go wrong with me, doing so. But to be abused, and to have this witnessed by my family..... A few of the nurses were eleminated from my care. This put a huge load on those who did do their job. The drugs had my mind messed up. I could not help with my care or understand what was expected of me. This is not me. I am not one to put on the call light, or pull tubes out, etc. Under all of the confusion causing drugs, I still had pain at a level of 20 on the 1-10 scale. Like I have told my friends, I have been through hell on earth. This has been over a year now. I think that I am clear of the MRSA/osteomyelitis that attacked my left chest wall surgical site. I am disabled in regard to working as a RN, at least for now. Someday I hope to get my strength back. So please think about how you are treating those patients who rely on your care. Talk to them, even if you think they are in a coma. I know I could hear, and could understand through touch if there was care or "don't give a damn" when THINGS were done to me. I still need to go back and view where I was held captive and tortured.The ICU. I have my complete medical record which I review trying to understand what the hell happened. I still need to write the surgeon. " Thanks for saving your own butt," in that I lived thru this. But I want him to understand what I had to go through. My loss of self. I do not need a reply to this. Just think about how this could have been you. :twocents:

wow bradleau, i am sooo very sorry to read this.

your pain and frustration are palpable, and i pray you can work through this.

fwiw, i believe every single word you wrote.

there are nurses, that just shouldn't be nurses.

perhaps when you regain more strength, you may consider therapy?

there is also a book called 'bed number 10' by sue baier, which describes the journey of a long-term icu pt, and how often she felt invisible, betrayed, and just the anguish that goes along w/an inability to communicate one's needs.

heartfelt prayers for resolution and peace.


HouTx, BSN, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.


Thank you for sharing your story - it will stay in my heart. Fortunately, I have not yet had to endure the experiences you describe, but I have been the primary caretaker for 3 terminally ill familymembers though their final months. Through it all, I became exquisitely sensitive to what it means to be "the patient" and how vulnerable they are to the effects of poor nursing care.

A few days ago, I responded on AN to a fairly new nurse who was ranting about having to care for 'whiny' patients - he wrote that he couldn't stand dealing with them for more than 2 or 3 hours. I was aghast - and very sad when I realized that he was probably expressing an opinon shared by many others. I have worked with nurses who invariably respond to every patient need as though it is all distasteful; interrupting their schedules and interfering with what they really want to do.

Short of subjecting them to the same type of experience you had, I don't know if there is any way to alter the negative attitudes of experienced nurses but maybe we can make a difference with the newer ones. I realize that you may not want to re-visit your experience, but I feel that it would be valuable for nursing students to hear. You should consider contacting local nursing schools and talking to them about this.

God bless you. I hope your recovery is uneventful.

xoemmylouox, ASN, RN

Has 13 years experience.

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am sorry to hear of the poor care you received. There are a few patient care providers (nurses, mds, etc) who don't provide the care they should :angryfire. God speed your continuing recovery.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience, as painful as it may have been to do. I am embarrassed for, as well as angered with, those that gave you such cold and detached care while you were a patient. It is even more incensing to know that this poor treatment was done to a fellow nurse. You deserved better care.

Sue Damonas, BSN

Specializes in Cardiology, Oncology, Hospice,IV Therapy. Has 39 years experience.

:icon_hug:Sorry to hear what you went through!!

MedicalLPN, LPN

Specializes in Onco, palliative care, PCU, HH, hospice.

I think too often some health care workers forget that we should treat every patient the way we would want ourselves or a loved one treated. You're right, you have been through hell and I am happy to hear that you are recovering.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, and please keep sharing it with others.


Has 6 years experience.

I, too, am sorry to hear about your unfortunate experiences and thank you for sharing them. I'm also sorry to say that I can believe it. I'm sure that we've all seen nurses that we would never want as our caregivers; I always try to treat my patients like I would want to be treated. Whether our patient is a fellow RN doesn't matter, they are always fellow human beings and deserve to be treated as such.

My mother was in ICU for 3 months before she died (yeah this was before the kick them to rehab days). I watched some of the most amazing nursing go on. Real CARE...not just tasks. I have every hope that I will be that nurse when all is said and done.

I am so sorry that this happened to you. I hope that you are able to heal with time, and eventually bring this knowledge back to our profession.

Virgo_RN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiac Telemetry, ED.

I'm really sorry about your experience.


Specializes in ICU, ER, EP,. Has 17 years experience.

Your words can make an enormous difference in the practice of nurses. Please don't stop here at this site and not just nursing schools. Not one of us is above being reminded of the impact we make. Consider sending your story to hospitals, nursing homes, schools and ask the managers to post it so staff can have a read at it.

Thank you for sharing this terrible time in your life with us.


Specializes in Peds/outpatient FP,derm,allergy/private duty. Has 45 years experience.

Bradleau, I also would like to thank you for posting your experience. I always learn something when I hear about a subjective experience from someone who is critically ill and unable to communicate. There was someone here a while back that had been a burn patient on a vent, unable to talk, but she told us that she was VERY aware of the feeling of cinders and smoke in her mouth, and that it felt "gritty". But there was no way for her to convey it. So, I knew without a doubt that proper mouthcare really was essential !!

I hope you are turning the corner on all your health issues. Thanks again for sharing. :nurse:

I am so sorry that you went through this. I remember when I worked in ICU, that a few nurses made fun of me for talking to comatose patients, but I didn't care since . When I precepted new ICU RNs or encountered a callous RN, I would give them my "One day you may be on the other side of the bedrail, so take exceptional care of patients" speech. Try to use your experience to educate other nurses. I am sure that there would be nursing journals that would love to print your story. I once read an article writted by a trauma nurse who ended up a patient trached and vented and it gave me such compassion to patients who most nurses and docs thought that they were not "in there". Good luck to you and may you be totally healed soon!

nursemike, ASN, RN

Specializes in Rodeo Nursing (Neuro). Has 12 years experience.

My father has stated, and means, that he would rather die than go back to the ICU. I'm embarrassed to say, this is at the hospital where I work.

I don't mean to generalize. I know there are some excellent ICU nurses. But I have had to interact with a few who clearly thought they were all that because they worked in the ICUs. Yeah, right.