Larry Leeds had quite an interesting column in this paper not too long ago regarding VIPs. I enjoyed it and agreed with it and thought that it was something that the general public ought to read and take to heart. I especially agreed, as I am sure you all did, with Mr. Leeds’ assertion that every patient is a VIP.
I want to take it one step further, though I know that I am "preaching to the choir." I have noticed that when a family expects to receive preferential treatment from hospital staff it can sometimes result in quite the opposite effect and that it can adversely affect the level of care the patient receives.
If a family is watching your every move and (shudder) taking notes on you each time you come into the room, each time you do anything, you may be less inclined to spend much time in that room. If you know that a family has complained to administration about every nurse they have been assigned, how happy are you going to be to be assigned to that patient? Forget the patient. The patient is rarely the problem in this kind of situation.
Here’s a bit of news – every single patient has somebody who cares about them. Nobody who has a family member or friend in the hospital wants that person to receive anything but the very best care possible.
"Well Mrs. Jones, usually we just wait around until the patient is choking on their own secretions, but since you are here we’ll make an exception." HUH???
"Normally I like to wait until the very end of my shift and then give all the medicine at one time, but since you are recording everything in your notebook, I guess I will do it the right way."
"I don’t usually like to bathe patients until I am sure they are absolutely as dirty as they are going to get, but since you insist . . ."
"Lucky thing you’re here! I usually just find a quiet corner and sleep the whole shift away. Thanks to you, the hospital is going to get their money’s worth out of me today!"
"I would be very happy to take messages from all your friends who call and let them know that you have stepped out for lunch. Oh that alarm? That’s just that other unworthy patient having a little thing we like to call V-tach. Oops! There’s the phone!"
"Gee, I knew there was a reason we had to take a whole semester of floral arrangement in nursing school. None of my other patients have ever received any flowers, especially not any flowers that needed to be rearranged! Yes, I surely can check the arrangement for wilted flowers again this afternoon. It would be my privilege to do so."
"Well, yes, sometimes people do get a little uncomfortable when we suction them. You’re right! Maybe we should just let him rest."
I am exaggerating, and maybe I am not being entirely fair. But I would really like to know what some people think some of the time! And I wonder if it would make any difference to them to know that at assignment time the nurses are not clamoring for the opportunity to be scrutinized and criticized by this type of family, but rather are grouped around the charge nurse with their fingers crossed muttering, "Not me, please not me, please not me."
Frequently a family of this type will think that they have the perogative of "firing" a nurse.
"I don’t ever want that nurse in this room again."
I have overheard people in the cafeteria or on their cell phones, "I told that Nurse Manager. . ."
Families who fire one nurse seem to like it so well that they will fire nurse after nurse after nurse. Do they think that there are an infinate number of nurses on any given unit and that if they just keep on culling through us they will at last get to the "good" nurse? Do they think that the CEO is going to come in and do nursing care?
It would be nice if they were told when they complained that sometimes it is the best nurses who tell you things you don’t want to hear, that there are rules for a reason, that sometimes you have to "bother" a patient to heal a patient, and maybe they are told that but don’t "get it."
I know in my "upper brain" that families like this are trying to participate, that they are doing the best that they can, from their perspective, for the patient. I wish that they knew and believed that the hospital staff are there to help, that we like nothing better than to have a patient not only recuperate, but thrive. I wish they knew that while we might not love their family member, we do love our jobs and we do know how to do our jobs very, very well.