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Through A Different Set Of Eyes: How A Patient Changed Me

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Specializes in Medical Teaching. Has 1 years experience.

How has a patient changed your life?

The day a patient changed my life was the day my Dad became one.

Through A Different Set Of Eyes: How A Patient Changed Me

It was a week before Christmas when he had an unexpected accident at home, and my twin sister had found him on the garage floor. He had fallen out of the 12-foot ceiling and onto the cement floor. He was trying to get the Christmas tree. He required emergency surgery to stop the bleeding and had a massive heart attack from all the blood loss. I was overseas playing basketball and rushed home.

Never did I feel isolated out of my field as a nurse then when sitting at the bedside in the Coronary Care Unit. It wasn't my scope of practice, I was a Medical Teaching nurse. Heart monitors were new to me and I didn't understand how they worked. The nurses would walk in silent and go about their job diligently. Hanging meds, doing assessments without acknowledging that I was in the room. Maybe because they were busy with their work, and didn't think I wanted to know the condition of my dad. It was unknown to them that I was one of them.

Sitting there made me assess my practice, how do I act when I enter a patients room when the family is at the bedside? I can remember many times tip-toeing into a room when the family is in visiting and not saying anything for not wanting to interrupt their conversation. Or thinking that this stuff is too technical for them, they won't understand and won't want me explaining it to them. As I felt non-existent in the room and not part of my dad's care. I made a decision to myself that I would explain my patients care to the family; if it was hanging a medication, doing a chest assessment. Those few words brought comfort, as I found out first hand. It recognizes that you are there and concerned for your wife/daughter/son... Moreover, you may learn something significant about your patient through family members, they know the patient best and can tell you if they notice changes in him/her.

When I was back at work, I had a patient that was newly diagnosed with cancer and only given a couple of months to live. He had two teenage kids and a wife that was at his bedside, day and night. This time I wasn't quiet and trying to be a ghost in the room. I spoke to the family and asked how their dad was doing and how they were doing. After a few days with them, they felt comfortable with me as his nurse and went home for the night to get some rest and told me that I was very helpful in explaining things to them and making it not such a scary experience for them. They had hoped that I was going to be his nurse for the remainder of his stay in the hospital.

For me, I was able to change my practice by including family in the patients care. It may seem insignificant in regards to starting an IV, inserting an NG tube, and hanging TPN. But, it was the most important thing that the nurse could do for me while I was at my dad's bedside.

Lastly, if I could give you all a piece of advice because I wouldn't want you to have to experience it first hand what it's like to have a family member in the hospital. I learned that when entering a room, a smile and a "hi" to the patient, AND the family member/friend visiting them made a difference to my day when staying with my dad, and I hope to keep making that difference to someone else.

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2 Comment(s)

As a patient's sister my brother was seemingly out of it after a severe infection in his brain and several VP shunt surgeries. When the nursing staff or any staff came in the room they wouuld speak to me instead of speaking to him. There were several times I had to say, he can understand what you're saying (he just doesn't remember it). I felt it was important for them to assume he could hear and understand and I would listen secondarily.

Thanks for what you posted. Sometimes I think we are forgotten as a human in the day-to-day stuff.

You're right in your perception of the real scenarios happenning in the hospital settings. I agree too that as nurses, busy as we are, we often fall for these mistakes. These is an eye opener for me too. Thank you very much! Sometimes though, the reason we nurses do not talk to folks is because we do not want to invade in their privacy or too fearful to be involve in anyway.But we do care.