This is the second post in a series that offers valuable nursing tips for being the best nurse patients ever had. Check out the first part of this powerful series by clicking here.
Being a patient is humiliating. There is nothing more degrading than to be naked in front of strangers and unable to take care of yourself. It’s scary. It’s isolating.
What matters most to patients and what makes the biggest impact on their stay are those little things that you can do to give them dignity and make them feel human again.
While we like to think that we do these things automatically, when you are working as a busy nurse, it’s easy to get caught up in your shift and overlook some of these simple things. I am going to share some common scenarios and how they can be turned around to create a positive experience for patients.
Never Act Irritated When the Patient Hits Their Call Light… Again
This is one that all nurses can relate to. There are always those patients – whether it’s the one with dementia who forgets that she keeps calling, the little old lady who thinks she has to potty every five minutes, or the patient in pain that is always calling out for meds before they are due – we all have patients that constantly call for nurses.
It’s so easy to come into the room, with a stern voice and hit the light and say, “What do you need?” In a rather harsh tone. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen nurses walk into the room with straight-up attitude towards these patients, complete with eye-rolling and the whole nine yards. Even when a nurse thinks they are being subtle with their irritation, patients can sense it. Even worse, I have seen countless times where nurses tell the patients that they don’t have to use the bathroom (sometimes this is the case) or that their needs basically don’t matter for one reason or another.
How can this be done differently? I don’t care if this patient calls you every five minutes, walk into that room with a warm and genuine smile. A little kindness goes a long way. When the patient knows you are irritated with them, they are going to be more likely to keep it going. While you’re in the room, ask them if there is anything else you can do to get them settled in. Never leave your patient’s room until you’ve helped meet the need they called for.
I will never forget working nights as a travel nurse at a metro hospital on a cardiac step-down unit. In the wee hours of the night, all of the nurses would have significant downtime where we would listen to music on Pandora for hours on end. I had a patient one night who was paraplegic, on a ventilator, with a lot of pain, and could barely talk. As a result, he called out for a nurse every few minutes. To top things off, he was quite young, only 27 years old with these permanent conditions, so he definitely suffered from severe depression.
I will be the first to tell you that I cannot lip-read for anything. Zip. I am terrible at it. As a result, it took me several trips into his room to get exactly what he needed. I remember I just came out of his room and sat down to play on the computer when he put the light on again. A nearby nurse who was also listening to Pandora enjoying downtime looked at me and said, “I feel so bad for you. He won’t stop calling for you.” I looked right at her and responded, “I don’t mind at all. I am not doing anything and have had downtime for hours. I am happy to go back in there.”
Take Your Patient to the Bathroom Instead of Calling for an Aid
It might be the fact that I was a nurse’s aid myself for many years before becoming a nurse, but I cannot stand when I see nurses leave the patient’s room right as their light goes on for the bathroom. I have literally seen nurses push the call light for the patient to get an aid, instead of taking them to the bathroom themselves.
While taking patients to the bathroom is the scenario I see most often, this also includes things like filling ice pitchers and delivering linen to the patient.
It makes the patient feel embarrassed and like a nuisance when they ask the caregiver in their room to use the bathroom, and they are given a reason why they couldn’t and made to wait. Now, obviously there are scenarios that require the help of more nurses or when the nurse is literally too busy to even stop for a second, but usually, you can take the time to get the patient into the bathroom. Even if you are very busy and don’t have time to take them back to bed, at least get them in there and let the aid know that they will be calling out when they are done.
Bring them What they Need Before they Ask for it
Do you have a patient on Q2 IV pain meds that you know for fact will be asking for it on the hour, every two hours? Instead of waiting for that patient to watch the time, then call for their pain meds, and then have to wait on you to complain that it is time to administer it again and draw it up, be proactive and plan on bringing it at that scheduled time.
There is a lot of distress experienced by the patient when they have to sit there waiting. By staying on top of the things they need, you might be surprised how much less the patient calls for help when they know that you are on top of it. It helps to ease their anxiety.
Putting These Tips Into Practice
So there you have it. From my extensive experience working as a nurse, treating patients with dignity and in a very personal and humane way is how you become the best nurse patients ever had.
Make a conscious effort to start putting these practices into play for yourself, and watch the impact you have on patients. For more stories and interesting nursing tips, follow our travel nursing blog.