Super cliché, I know: The nurse as the patient. But I can’t help but write about it. It’s too ripe with comment, critique, color and ... cliché, I guess.
Yep, so I was the patient recently — still am, I suppose. You might remember I ruptured my calcaneus (“Achilles”) tendon while jumping rope? And it needed surgery to be best repaired? Well, I had that surgery March 11 and I’m mostly home and recovering.
I’ve learned gobs and gobs, and every day I get something new to consider. Here’s a potpourri selection of my nurse-as-patient revelation with specific thoughts to nurses.
• No matter how much worse it could be, if your injury or sickness is bad for you, it’s bad for you. I’m not wallowing in self-pity, but neither was I comforted, at least initially, by the words, “Well, it could be worse.” My tendon was snapped, leaving me hobbled; that was bad enough. Nurse: Allow your patients a few minutes to be angry about their circumstances. It’s OK to agree with them when they sullenly say, “This sucks” before you try to comfort them.
• Varied and eccentric worries might plague you, things others might find odd. My thoughts before surgery day? What underwear do I wear? What if I say something crazy while doped up? What about the no-coffee headache I’m sure to have? Will they laugh at my flabby body while I’m under? Should I shave my legs before I go in? What if I die? Will I know I have died? Nurse: Don’t assume you know what concerns your patient. Ask. Share some of the odd (to you) concerns so they know they’re not alone in their thoughts and that you get it.
• In many situations, the main thing is NOT the main thing. Sickness and injury birth dozens of offspring troubles. My heel itself doesn’t hurt a bit; my heel is no problem. What’s awful is the loss of income for at least six weeks because I can’t work, the extra time and tremendous effort it takes to do the simplest errand, the displeasure of a dirty house because I can’t easily clean well, the mild depression that wants to settle in at least once a day, the enormous financial burden. Nurse: Think about your patient as mother, father, student, worker — whatever he or she is. How does the illness/issue affect those roles? So much is touched by even a seemingly benign procedure or condition; don’t forget that.