This past weekend I worked a 12 hour shift on a weekend versus my usual on call status and spent most of the shift on the floors. I have worked in the recovery room (aka the PACU) for the last five years so it has been a while since I have been on the inpatient side of things. Before coming to the PACU I worked in the cardiac ICU...and spending all day on the floors around bedside nurses, their patients and seeing the interactions ... gave me some thoughts and inspiration to reflect and share. If I had the opportunity to write a letter to my patients - current or the past ... what would I say?
Dear Patient - With Love, Your Nurse
Dearest patient ... oh where to begin...
Next time when you come in for surgery please leave your $800 cash at home, take out your nipple piercings and don't forget that nothing by mouth DOES include water...and pizza...and rockstar energy drinks. When I go through your medication list with you - please just keep it simple with a yes or no. I don't need to know that you took it at 10:37 pm last night with your bowl of raisin bran and cranberry juice after you watched the dateline special with tom hank that your cousin Joe called you and told you to watch because his neighbor was featured on this edition...
Also - Yes. I'm sure you are the hardest IV start ever because last time you were in the E.R. you were poked 18 times because your veins roll...
On a more serious note please know that I do truly care about you. I really do want your surgery to go well and I truly would trust our anesthesia team with me or any of my family members. I want you to be comfortable throughout your whole experience..but I also want you to remember that any time you are cut into ... you are going to have some aspect of pain. Surgery is no quick fix. Ever.
I know you are thirsty. I know you are hungry. But I promise you aren't going to die from missing breakfast, lunch, or dinner or all three in one day. I get hangry too. But you won't die. Please know there is a 80% that I haven't eaten, have a full bladder still somehow, am putting out about four fires outside of this current room and I'm awaiting a page from two different physicians. ...
When you get to your hospital room I'm sure it's scary for you. Especially when you are groggy, just want to be home, are having pain and you are in a space where you are squeezed, stripped naked at times, lay there to just listen to bells and whistles that you have no idea what they mean...did you do something wrong? Is something wrong with YOU? Are you the one setting them off?
I want you to feel comfortable and not scared. I don't enjoy having to look you over from head to toe naked, but also don't want you to end up with a bed sore. I hate those damn alarms too. More than you know. If there is something you are setting off - I promise to tell you what it is, what it means. Let ME worry about the numbers. Your pulse rate and blood pressure change EVERY second. Don't stare at the monitor and worry about the number. That's my job.
Please know that me the nurse or any other nurse taking care of you DOES want you to have the best experience possible...but that we miss our families at home too. We're missing out on family events, meals, our childrens' milestones...even holidays. Currently BESIDES you - we most likely have AT LEAST two or three other patients that need our attention too. We're call physicians to tell them what orders we need, giving out medications safely and securely, we're trying to keep up with a ridiculous amount of charting and keep it mind we also get interrupted nearly 30 times an hour for doing so.
I promise to give you respect, courtesy and the best care ever..but I do kindly demand respect in return. Common courtesy with pleases and thank yous go a long way. I'm sorry if I'm ever short with you .. I didn't mean it -
At the end of the day as your nurse I'm exhausted. It's not the standing for hours on end, chasing your neighbor who is confused and trying to crawl out of bed or even the steps I put on walking in a million circles. Its the mental exhaustion. Because I feel your pain when you do. I feel your stress when you tell me you aren't sure how you're going to pay for all this. It's the pain I see your FAMILY go through as they may know this may be your last day. It's the never ending explaining, the positive attitude and demeanor I'm expected and WANT to have and it's the call lights that endlessly go off for things that your neighbor was in dire need of. Or even worse they didn't really need. (the 6th mountain dew and obviously some pain meds because you are a 10/10) It's the 17 family members that I have explained the situation to at least 47 times..and have done so with a smile on my face.
So you see my dear patient - I'm a real person too. I'm a critical thinker, your advocate, a lot of time your physician...but like I said I'm a human too. I'm sure there is much more that I can tell you, but I'll leave it there - When your next nurse comes in... please tell them thank you (and treats never hurt either)
Cookie and Treats Baker. R.N. Nutrition Nerd. Runner. <3 Coffee. Fitness. Foodie. In pursuit of finding my own kind of balance...
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