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Rookie Wit & Wisdom
When Good Patient Care Is Questioned

About a month ago I took care of a female patient on my unit who was post-op. She was relatively young (in her early 40s) and healthy.

I took care of her for two days in a row. At first she seemed pleasant, and we got along well. We have daughters the same age and live in the same city.

At the end of the first day, however, she started to become somewhat needy. There were frequent calls. Things were seemingly going wrong every hour or so: an IV pump would mysteriously be on hold and alarming, or her pain medicine wasn't working.

The second day started off fine, and she shared with me some of the issues she was having with members of her family--specifically problems surrounding a hurtful letter that had been sent to her by a family member, which made terrible assumptions about her health condition.

For 20 minutes I listened and reassured the patient. However, the same needy behavior occurred and increased (pain, nausea, pressure, nausea, pain, fatigue, nausea, reflux, pain, pain, nausea).

Don't get me wrong: I take my patients very seriously, and I do what I can to make them comfortable. But she needed me for every little thing. By the end of my shift, I had become so frustrated by what seemed to be attention-seeking behavior that I decided to set limits in a firm but professional way.

Thankfully, a few days later when I returned to work, she was not in my assignment.

Recently, I found out that this patient complained about me, not only to the other nurses but also to the hospital's patient relations department. It got filtered down to me through my manager, who rallied behind me.

In her two-page complaint, the patient stated that after she showed me this "letter" I began to treat her differently. She said her pump was alarming and I was talking in the hall to another nurse and ignored it. She also said, on a day I wasn’t her nurse, I walked into her room, looked at her PCA pain pump, and then walked out. (It is hospital policy that two nurses check the settings of a PCA, and that is EXACTLY what I did.)

Her complaints were vague, to say the least, and in no way reflected the CARE I gave her. She seemed like someone scorned or rejected.

At first I was angry because I had been nothing but caring, kind, and compassionate to her. But I began to wonder if maybe somewhere I had crossed a line with her and she saw me as more than just her nurse.

Now I feel like I need to be cautious when dealing with my patients. I never know what they're really thinking or capable of saying about me--even if I give the very best care.

I was wondering if anyone had any feedback on this or had similar experiences and how they dealt with it.

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4 Responses to “When Good Patient Care Is Questioned”

  1. bryn Says:

    I told a teenager (mother was present) that the blood test may hurt a little, but it’s needed and sometimes it can’t be helped. I wasn’t even her allocated nurse, the actual nurse orignally looking after her had asked me to take the blood as she was sick of listening to the girls foul mouthed language, lots of F words etc.
    Beside the fact that mum sat there and let her daughter speak that way, the mother said I was inapproriate. “What was inappropriate?” I asked. She was upset that I had said the blood test may hurt a little.
    She then started writing down the names of the nurses who were on that shift in the her ER. She soon left when I told her to make sure she spelled my name right when she laid her complaint. I then said spelled each letter of my name out to her.
    We did get a complaint, but she still got my name spelt wrong.

  2. Kbomber Says:

    I had an almost identical experience as a CNA. This woman got up from surgery and immediately took our names down for a thank you letter. She was very friendly and appreciative of everything. She ended up staying 5x longer than normal due to an infection and by the end of the 2 weeks, she had driven everyone crazy. She would refuse vital signs until the absolute most inconvenient time, 2 hours after they were due. She’d ask for something,I’d bring it, ask her if theres anything else, she’d say no, then would call and say I refused to bring her something else. I had a threat of being written up for that.
    The same thing happened, in the end, nothing came of it because everyone was aware of how she was. I just had to put it out of my mind and ignore it.

  3. Andrea Says:

    I am currently in the RN program and im in a sociology class that is doing an investigative service learning project. I just want to ask current nurses what they feel should be changed about the healthcare industry? what do you personally struggle with? Do you have adequate health insurance provided to you? Any feedback is appreciated. Thank you.

  4. nursingaround Says:

    let the charge hire as many nurses as they feel is required. 99% of places I’ve worked all operate on the bare minimum of staff that the law will allow. As soon as there is adequate staffing, this prevents many problems and nurses have the time to do the nice things which not only make a stay more pleasant, but can save lives.

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