I was caring for a patient in rapid Afib. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time he’d experienced the sensation of his heart racing and jumping all over the place. We got his heart rate under control through the magic of Cardizem. Although his blood pressure dropped a bit, he was hemodynamically stable. For the next several hours, I had the opportunity to spend time with him and his wife. We talked about his cardiac rhythm issues, his previous surgeries, what he eats, how he exercises, and eventually we talked about his bowel habits. Initially, our conversations focused on his problems, treatments, and physical care but then over the course of the day, we shifted to lifestyle, family, and hobbies. When I stopped in his room to say goodbye, he and his wife unanimously shouted, “No! We don’t want you to leave!” Although it made me feel great about my “work” that day, it reinforced some things that I have learned about patients over my 25 years as a nurse.
- Patients EXPECT their nurses to be competent.Patients don’t care if you’ve been a nurse for 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, or 100 years. Patients don’t care if you have a diploma, associates, bachelors, masters or even a doctoral degree. They expect all of their nurses to be competent.
- Patients WANT their nurses to be compassionate.Patients assume that we will provide high quality care, free from mistakes; that they will get the right medications at the right time; but what they WANT from us is compassion. Do we care about them as human beings? Although WE focus on competence, THEY want compassion.
- Patients WANT to be involved in their care.We make the false assumption that as soon as we put a gown on a patient he/she becomes stupid. We make decisions about their care on the telephone, in the nurse’s station, and in the hallway, yet rarely do we talk about them in front of them. It’s their life and they want to be involved.
- Patients NEED to feel safe.Many patients suffer from separation anxiety when their nurse ends his/her shift. They are concerned that the next person might not take good care of them, especially when they hear the negative chatter from the hallway (note: patients hear everything!). Patients need to feel that they are in a safe environment no matter who is caring for them.
- Patients NEED to trust us.When patients are in our care, they are vulnerable. We start them on new medications, poke them with needles, send them for test after test, and put them in embarrassing situations (enemas, suppositories and straight caths ring a bell?). They need to trust that we will make decisions based on what’s best for them – not for us. That we won’t make fun of them in the break room, and that their OMG information won’t be shared on the social media superhighway.
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