I remember dating someone in college who was so hung up on the fact that I was studying to be a nurse. He thought that all nurses were like Florence Nightingales flitting around their patients thankful for the opportunity to care for people and feeling so honored that they would even be paid to do what they were so passionate about.
That relationship didn't last long. I'm sad to say I probably ruined his ignorant view of nursing as a profession. Who would ever want to have to live up to those expectations as a girlfriend or a wife? Not me!
Yet, I was naive in thinking that all nurses that I worked with in my career would share my personality traits.
The hardest part of nursing was not about learning all of the technical skills and the theories behind them but to learn the communication and survival skills to deal with all of the different personalities of my fellow co-workers.
Nurses are not made from a single mold. We have all become nurses for different reasons, and our intentions, good or bad, can't be determined simply by our career choices.
It took me a long time to realize and accept the point that I am going to make to you in this post: you need to realize that your nurse is another human being with personality quirks, personal beliefs, and a diverse background, who endures current trials and tribulations.
That being said, you have the right and the responsibility to understand and ask questions of your nurse regarding your care, expect to be treated with respect, and to not fear any repercussion for asking questions or needing clarification about your care.
As there are all different types of bankers, hair stylists, business owners, and other professionals, there are also different types of nurses. Personalities, work ethics, social upbringing, and other factors all work together to form the population of nurses that you may come into contact with while in the hospital.
Although I was aware of this concept working as a nurse, it wasn't until my mom was hospitalized that I realized the impact that a nurse's personality or mood could have on a patient.
This was MY mom. She is so sweet and would do anything for anyone. I could never imagine anyone being rude to her or, worse yet, making her frightened or reluctant to speak up for herself.
But, it happened . . .
My mom has never had ongoing health issues that required long-term hospitalization.
She and her husband were driving 5 hours south to my house for Easter last year when she started having some mysterious symptoms that diverted them to a nearby community hospital.
Every day was a game of hide-and-go-and-seek searching for a diagnosis requiring her to be hospitalized for over a week.
Of course, either I or my sister stayed with her at all times, which I would always recommend but will address in a later post.
For the most part, she always had pretty good nurses. Some of them were new graduates and some had been there for a very long time, but they all seemed to be very concerned and professional except for one.
We will call her Pam -- personality of a slug, angry at the world, and motives questionable.
I knew Pam.
Well, not personally, but I have worked alongside many of these "" in my career. I thought to myself, "Oh, no, it's a Pam. This is no problem. I've got this."
I had perfected the art of dealing with a nurse Pam in a manner that strokes her ego just enough to get what everyone needed from her, which was just for her to do her job without causing a major dramatic event or putting another nurse in tears.
So, I was so surprised when I noticed my mom's demeanor change whenever this nurse walked into the room. In the middle of the night, my mom developed a fever, and when I attempted to grab the thermometer that was left in the room by the nurse's aide, she quickly responded in a way that made me so sad. My mom told me not to take her temperature and to let the nurse do it so the nurse wouldn't get mad.
The only way I can explain my internal thought processes and feelings about her request can only be associated with the sinking heart, anger, and helplessness a mother feels when her child begs her not to address the bully at school in fear of further torment.
My mom was scared of her nurse!
Perhaps it wasn't the nurse she was scared of but the power that nurse had to make her life miserable.
My mom had to ensure that she would get her pain medicine when she needed it, ensure the nurse was playing the part of her advocate in terms of her care, and would cause no barriers to her care that would inhibit her progress to healing and discharge to home.
This is when I pulled the "I'm a nurse" rabbit out of the hat. I save this only for desperate times when my mom's fear is justified.
I politely and professionally requested from the charge nurse that nurse Pam would no longer be assigned to my mom.
Yes, I fired her and I don't feel bad about it at all. Believe me, I am certain this has not been a first for Nurse Pam.
I'm also certain she spent the rest of her shift attempting to convince her co-workers that my mom was a difficult patient and that I am a know-it-all daughter claiming to be a nurse and getting some kind of high off of knowing my mom's rights and the processes to handle things.
Now, please don't take this as an invitation to fire your nurse every time she says or does something you don't agree with.
For the most part, nurses are passionate about their job and do want to see you comfortable and healing.
The firing of a nurse should be the last resort after appropriately addressing the issues with the people in charge. There are many times we have to be the bad guys by giving you information you don't want to hear or intervening in ways that are not pleasing but essential.
If you feel like your nurse has disrespected you or ignored your best interest in one way or another, give them a chance to explain their actions or even apologize if needed.
But, if you have given the nurse the benefit of the doubt and the chance to explain their actions with no success, don't feel bad about initiating steps to assure your safety and confidence in your care.
You may be unrealistic to request Florence Nightingale as your nurse, but you are realistic to expect to have a nurse that you know is on your side.