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Reality Unscripted
Patience with Patients

I read a blog entry this week from a friend whose son is having a bone marrow transplant today. I could fill a book with all the things I've learned from this family, but I'll just share one thing with you today. This particular entry was about how you can't rush a 10-year-old who doesn't want to do something. Especially if he has to do something uncomfortable. Especially if he's already feeling terrible. As a parent these things don't surprise me. As a nurse, it's a reminder I often need.

We in the medical profession often ask patients to do things they don't really want to do: from blood draws to procedures to surgeries. It's easy for us to be judgmental because we know the importance of the test. We look at it from the scientific vantage point. We, however, are not the ones with a needle in our arm or a tube up our butt. We are not the ones who will be on pain meds for days after the procedure. We aren't the ones feeling nauseous, fatigued, or fearful.

My little friend was being asked to undergo one more irradiation treatment. He was exhausted from the other two that day as well as the three the day before...and the three the day before that. This on top of the five years of treatments he has already suffered. After this last dose, he had hard-core chemo to face before the transplant. Then six weeks of isolation.

Fortunately, the staff he was dealing with that evening were extremely patient. They forgave his tardiness to the appointment, his bad attitude, and his lack of cooperation. They gave him the time and space he needed to pull it together. They didn't raise voices or make him feel guilty. They were able to pull back and look at the big picture. They gave him the gift of empathy.

Is empathy a gift you often give? It makes all the difference in giving the best possible care to a patient. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Think about the pain of having a needle stuck through your skin. It doesn't just pinch for a second, as we often say. It hurts!!! Which would probably explain why I haven't had my cholesterol checked in a couple of years.

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2 Responses to “Patience with Patients”

  1. Amber ~ student Rn Says:

    I work as a paramedic, as well as being a student nurse, so convincing patients that IVs and other potentially painful procedures are necessary has become almost second nature for me.
    I got a small dose of reality this weekend when I got so sick that I needed an antiemetic and fluid replacement. The person who started my IV had a little trouble, and then the angiocath got turned around so the nub was pushing against my skin instead of facing up. Once everything got straightened around and we were sure it hadn’t infiltrated, the saline was started and I was expecting the site to stop hurting – like I tell all my patients it will – but it never did! Luckily for me, as soon as the 1000mL bag was done I was able to remove the IV, but it made me think of the patients that have IVs in for days and weeks at a time (not to mention the site changes every 2-3 days!)
    Of course, my story does not even come close to comparing with the experience of the little boy in the story. However, the events of this past weekend have reminded me what it’s like to be sick and the treatment to get better can be painful. I will absolutely be thinking of this the next time I walk into a patient’s life and ask them to do something that I know will hurt, but will also make them better!

  2. Andy Says:

    In regards to needle sticks – I am a hard stick so I know what it is like to get poked numerous times to get a good vein & it’s normally in the hand which hurts the worse. I always tell my pts upfront that this is going to hurt & tell them my experience as well. If anything starts becoming as issue – I also remind them of their rights as a pt and the ability to refuse along with the reasoning on why we are doing what we are doing. Most of the time – the idea of having control back on decisions can calm a pt down.

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