Believing is seeing

Why is it that as nurses we are so quick to label people? The Frequent Flyer. The Drug Seeker. The Whiner. When you see a patient do you see them, or do you see what the previous shifts nurse saw? Did he/she see the patient, or did someone else or the patient’s chart tell them what to see? Let’s look at these “problem patients” one at a time.

The Frequent Flyer

O.K. So the frail older lady down the hall has been admitted to this floor 15 times in the last year. Maybe she has a complicated disease process, maybe she likes the decor, or maybe she lives alone, is a widow with no grown kids and no friends and the hospital is just where she gets a little TLC. Whether it’s one of the above or something else entirely, she doesn’t deserve to be ignored or have her complaints of pain shunted aside. And before some exhausted full time RN jumps down my throat….yes, I do, to some extent “know how it is”. I’ve been a CNA for over 10 years and have seen my share of all of the above. It IS frustrating if you let it be. Sometimes you have people that “really” need the care and this lady is “just taking up space”. Here’s my ten cents: loneliness, neglect, and depression can make you sick. Staring at the same walls for months on end can make you want to end your life. I’m not saying we should spend tons of extra time on this patient, just equal time. Every patient deserves equal care…and if this patient gets treated warmly and compassionately, she’ll probably be less likely to blow up the nurses station with her call bell!


The Drug Seeker

That guy that asks for his dose of pain meds at least an hour before they’re due. It could be breakthrough pain, but you know better because he looked homeless when they brought him in, because he said he used to do drugs but not anymore, because his wound isn’t really that bad and can’t hurt as much as he says, right? Yeah, sure, it could be one of those. Who cares!? How is it any skin off a nurses nose to administer what’s prescribed, for a patient who says he hurts? So he wants you to push it fast…sorry buddy, have to do it this way…but why worry about his addiction, real or imagined. Addicts have pain too, it’ll keep him from calling you every 2 minutes if he can’t feel it, if he builds a tolerance…wait, will he really be here long enough for that to happen?…and if he is, can’t he be weaned off slowly once the pain gets better?

The Whiner

We all know and love this last one. It’ll usually be the biggest, toughest-looking guy on the unit but he sobs for his mother if you even look crosseyed at his sutures. Don’t we all get a perverse satisfaction from lurking in the hall outside his door so we can hear everything while the poor resident debrides his wound! Pain tolerance is a funny thing, isn’t it? The tiny old lady that won’t call for pain meds no matter how much it hurts and the big biker-dude who wants them for a hangnail and faints at the sight of his own blood!

Each of these patients has come into my life in one form  or another. Sometimes the personality diagnosis was right on, and just as often it was completely off base. I’ve learned to take each patient as they come, without the stigma of what their chart says or even what the night shift thinks. Yes, I listen to the report…and then I forget it, go say hello to the patient, and let them show me who they are.


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