Nurses can be such a pain in the butt. I am glad they are.
I figured it out tonight. In the last three years, with the health needs of two of our family members, we have experienced six health crises and spent 60 days and counting in hospitals.
A fresh respect for medical personnel, especially nurses of all ranks, is brewing. They have kicked us in the butt … in all the right ways … more than once. The sacrifice … the kindness … the grit … the determination … the heartaches … their feistiness. Nurses, your job … from exhilarating, life-saving moments to the messes … has not been lost on my family.
You have winked and said, “We’ve got this,” while the doctor was giving bad news. You’ve looked into Loved One’s eyes and said, “It’s okay. I’d be mad too.” You’ve fought for that extra test or a better meal.” You’ve bossed us around.
As I sit in a hospital room at this very minute … day six of sleeping (well, obviously not) in a drafty window daybed, I’m realizing what odd relationships patients, their families, and nurses sometimes find themselves in. I’m realizing that the real pain in the butts are not bossy nurses, but nervous, clue-less family members.
We don’t mean to be though … therefore, I hope that for all the gratitude I feel, that I could be heard on a few issues so that you, nurses, can understand we’re NOT trying to be the pain we end up being. (Warning: one small rant ahead … the rest are hopefully, helpful insights.)
1 – First of all! Thank you for remembering that this is scary for us. What is routine to you is not obvious to us. We have been thrust into a world that comes with a foreign language and dependence on overworked people who have supervisors breathing down their neck to make sure that sick, cranky people walk away as happy as if they just spent a week at a resort.
2 – We think Medicare and insurance checklists are stupid too. We get that you have no choice but to stay inside the parameters. Thanks, however, for making us feel more human than checklist.
3 – Thank you for being patient when we can’t pronounce the names of medications or understand your creative pronunciation because you don’t know how to say it either. (Why aren’t we all advocating for “street names” for medicines that everyone can pronounce? No, seriously! How are senior citizens – or anyone – supposed to know what they’re taking? Can you say acetaminophenolanzaineledopa? I can swear that’s what the doctor just said, and yet, ailing Loved One is supposed to answer the question, “What meds are you taking?”)
4 – Thanks for realizing that angst over timely meds or clarifications on dosages isn’t a personal inditement on your abilities as a nurse … a thousand med changes in a week (it was at least that many, right?) is really hard on Loved One’s body and her stubbornness or catatonic state of the moment may have a lot more to do with the adjusting … yet once again … to high powered drugs than to resisting your efforts. Nurses might get that, but not all aids or specialists do.
5 – The nurse on the last shift suggested that we’re doing too much and scolded me for restating her question to Loved One. Another nurse said in front of Loved One how well she does when we are there and hinted that we should be there more. That nurse probably didn’t realize that I slept … didn’t sleep … the last six nights in the mentioned drafty window bed AND that Loved One knows that I will have to leave AND that what was said just increased her anxiety AND that I feel guilty enough about having to leave soon.
6 – I appreciate nurses who get that this bleary-eyed wife and daughter isn’t trying to be a know-it-all. I don’t pretend to know everything you know. BUT, with a roller coaster of shift changes and a sea of faces that swarm past us in a given week – day, even – I’ve been forced to learn those awful drug names, create a 90 second sound bite of Loved One’s odd and crazy medical history that I rattle off whether you want to hear it or not because of important details that have been overlooked. And then there’s the diplomacy of having to tell the new aid how to correctly work the bladder scanner, while trying not to freak out because I’m pretty sure she didn’t wash her hands and wasn’t wearing gloves after helping Loved One in the bathroom. (The whole time thinking, “What happens, when I’m gone?!!!)
7 – Thanks for understanding that I’m broken up about having to leave. Loved One could have wrestled a bear in her day (which she figuratively did many times) while literally giving the shirt off of her back to help people that others overlook. But now she needs advocates. Will people be kind? Will they be careful not to treat her like a child, but instead a dignified woman who needs a little more time and patience while her brain and body try to agree? What happens if no one notices – like I did – that her chair alarm wasn’t set or that there was a mistake in her medication list?
8 – If you are a nurse’s aid who has strong opinions and stringent definitions about quality of life and want to rattle on – loudly – at the nurse’s station about reality TV shows that promote euthanasia or aborting babies who are likely to have disabilities … could you kindly shut your pie hole? A hospital where you are supposed to be aiding the sick is not the place for you to subliminally tell me that Loved One doesn’t really matter because she doesn’t meet the standards of a stupid TV show. I realize you didn’t know I was there … but I’m glad I heard what you really think. Sadly, though, it makes me wonder how Loved One will be treated as soon as I turn my back. (Sorry … had to get out that one rant.)
9 – Please know that the person you see as a patient is a person with a story. We, the family, see and know the story. We know the practical joker and the generous soul that sits in that bed. We know the person who raised four children on a macaroni and cheese budget and cleaned a Walmart-sized mountain of diapers, who now sits there, struggling to put on her own clothes. We see and we hurt and we celebrate a beautiful life … so have patience with our cyclone of emotions.
Thank you nurses, aids, specialists, and doctors. You are terrific people. You are heroes. You deal with gross body fluids, run five directions at once, give up breaks to help someone to the bathroom, deal with administrators breathing down your neck, and never get enough thanks.
Keep being a pain in the butt … and pardon the mess when I’m a pain right back. Really … we’re on the same team.
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ABOUT THE PHOTOS ON MY SITE: ALL PHOTOS ON RASHELLBUD, UNLESS NOTED, ARE MY OWN. THE HOSPITAL IN THE HEADING SHOWS THE CURRENT STATE OF ST. IGNATIUS HOSPITAL IN COLFAX, WA. THANKFULLY, NO ENCOUNTER WE’VE HAD HAS BEEN THIS SCARY.
Advocating for loved ones is so important. I, too, wonder what could happen if we’re not there.
For us it’s been the doctors who used the medical vocabulary that was incomprehensible. My grandma simply nodded her head and said yes to every question.
The nurses make the difference.
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We’re in a position where we can’t be there all the time just now so I really can get anxious. Thanks for sharing your experience. It helps to know we’re not the only ones.
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Great article Shelly! You captured the hospital experience well, and with humor. I can relate. The last time my mom was in the hospital, (this is in Canada) they gave her a cocktail of drugs that weakened her horribly, she couldn’t even get out of her hospital bed! It was before i managed to get up there and stop the drug pumping! I hope your loved one is doing better and will soon be out of the hospital and back home!
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Thank you, Mona. It is so important to advocate, isn’t it? Now that Mom is in a place where she is seeing the same doctor and nurses on a regular basis, we hope that she will stabilize. Unfortunately, she is suffering from a disease that doesn’t play nice. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!