Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Hospital Duty -- Part 5 Dealing with Nurses

The nurses serving your loved one can be you ally or enemy. They can work with you or keep you in the dark. It’s always my aim to work with them, to support them in any way I can, and to be as friendly and gracious as I can be. When I arrive I the morning, I check the white board in the room and find out who is staffing my loved one. There is always an RN and one or two other staff. These others vary by facility, but are always lower levels of licensing. In California, you will find Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). As soon as possible, I make contact with each of these people and introduce myself if they don’t know me. I check on what’s happened through the night and any scheduled procedures for that day. I always try to be positive and upbeat. It will pay off when I need something.

It’s important to know who does what in your hospital. For example, only an RN can give medications, start an IV, or do certain other procedures like complex dressing changes. If you ask one of the other staff for this, all they can do is give the message to the nurse. Generally bed changes, grooming, and toileting are done by the other staff. Don’t ask the RN.

Nurses these days are overworked and under-appreciated. Many work 12 hour shifts. They may or may not have time to review the patient's full record, especially if things are changing quickly with the patient. This is where my notebook and I shine. I'm often the only person in the room who knows the what’s been done and what the history is. I assume that they know what they’re doing until I see something that concerns me. Then I'll ask a question. Either, “what” or “why,” or if I'm sure something is not right, “Are you aware…?” The what’s and why’s educate me. For example, one nurse mentioned that my sister should not have an IV because the antibiotic she was on was hard on the veins. There were two IV nurses checking her arms for a good IV site. After a bit I said, “By the way, are you aware she’s on vancomycin?” They obviously hadn’t checked her chart. “Oh, that changes everything!” they said and proceeded to order a picc line. Incidents like this happened several times per hospitalization.

I always try to check out with the nurses when I'm ready to leave. And I always try you be upbeat and gracious. It usually pays off with both information and suggestions, and better care for the one who often doesn’t feel well enough or alert enough to be gracious. So work with your nurses. Be their asset, not a nuisance. You’ll be glad you did.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Christiana Care 

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