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Reality Unscripted
Unexpected Education

My friend's dad had a triple bypass after a heart attack over the weekend.

I saw through her eyes how overwhelming, traumatic and surreal a health crisis can be. I've also seen how said crisis can be transformed by a caring medical staff.

My friend's world revolves around taking care of her family, working on her degree, church and school involvement, and writing. Never in her wildest dreams did she consider getting an education in cardiology. Her world shrunk quickly to a waiting room outside the CCU - waiting on the surgery on the heart of the man attached to tubes and wires.

Her story is a good one. Her dad didn't suffer any complications after the bypass and was discharged just 48 hours after surgery. But my favorite part is how positive she felt about the experience. She loved the surgeon and the staff. She felt like they were available to her father and the whole family. They addressed everyone's concerns. The surgeon gave her mother his cell phone number and said to call, day or night, with questions. The entire experience went as well as it possibly could have.

That, however, did not change the sense of crisis as things unfolded. Both the family and patient were terrified. This whole situation was new to them. The outcome in question.

A medical staff obviously shapes the physical care of a patient. Less obvious, but equally important is the effect they have on the mental care and healing of both the patient and their family. Do you get that YOU have a HUGE impact on how people feel about their experience in a hospital? You can even make a bad outcome better by the kind of care you give. Oh, the power!

Let's come up with some ways to use the power for good and not for evil. I'll start:

1. Be proactive. Instead of waiting for a patient or family member to ask you a question, ask if they have any;



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3 Responses to “Unexpected Education”

  1. LizFeelsGood Says:

    2. Before the doctor arrives for his/her 2 minute flying visit I help the patient to make a list of any questions they would like answered and any concerns they have.

    Stay with the patient while they go through this list with the doctor – so you can further clarify information after the doctor has gone if needed (and stop to the Doctor running away if needed). Start the next list of questions as soon as the doctor leaves and encourage the patient to write down questions as they thing of them.

    If the patient has several questions, I will pull up a chair next to the patients bed and invite the doctor to sit down while telling him/her “Mrs Jones has several questions for you so this might take a little while Doctor, why don’t you sit down for a minute.” If you can get the Doctor to actually sit down, I have found they are often more willing to engage with the patient.

    If the Doctor claims to not have time to answer questions insist that he tells you and the patient when he will come back to answer the patients questions.

  2. Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN Says:

    3. One of the things that I’ve found to be difficult is that in a crisis such as this, the ENTIRE huge family turns out the they ALL have questions. Most of the tiem they all have the SAME questions at different times and this can be taxing on the staff to have to stop and answer the same questions over and over or give the same report to each family member as they arrive or “change guard” at the bedside.

    There are several options that can work well here. Have the family appoint a spokesperson to ask questions and to provide information to the family. Use a notebook at the bedside for family members to communicate their questions and information to and from that spokesperson. Designate a time to sit down for a few minutes with a group of family members to discuss the situation and have them come prepared with questions for you to answer.


  3. Andy Says:

    3. Tell them the hours you are working and what number to reach you. Assure them they can call you at anytime and if you are not available who they can take talk (another RN or charge RN). Also at shift change – introduce them to the oncoming RN that will be taking over for the next shift.

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