OCTOBER 17TH: 5 Things Your Nurse Wish You Knew

One day I asked my colleagues, "What do you wish you could tell your patients? What are your biggest frustrations as a nurse?" Some responses were light-hearted, some were serious, all were true. Think of this as a "tips from the trenches" if you will. If you're a nurse, I hope you find this relatable and if you're not, I hope you find it educational! 

5. I Have My Listening Ears On, Do You?

As your nurse, we know everything about you. We've dug into your chart to paint a vivid picture of your medical history for ourselves in order to give you the best care possible. We listen to everything you say to ensure you have a good healing environment and that your needs and requests are met. If we're listening to you, you should listen to us too, right?  A nurse and patient relationship is one built on trust and a mutual understanding that the common goal is to get you home in better shape than you came, so why is it that readmission rates are climbing? When a patient is discharged, a nurse provides handouts on your condition and medications and does a thorough teaching to ensure you get home (and stay home) in great shape. All too often, I catch patients glancing at the tv during discharge teaching to steal moments of the House Hunters marathon they've been binging during their stay or giggling at memes they just found while they were scrolling through Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I love a cute kitten video just as much as the next guy, but this visit in a patient's room is perhaps one of the most important. Listen to us, just as we have listened to you. 


4. We Get Hangry Too

Over the span of a day where you have eaten 3 meals, I'm lucky if I get one whole one. Chances are, by 2:00 pm, I've maybe eaten a granola bar, chugged down a pot of coffee like its going out of style, and my bladder is breaking records of the amount of pee it can hold. Please don't take this one to be a rant or suggest that nurses work under poor conditions, that would be missing the point entirely. It's merely to suggest that we have normal body functions, just like our patients. I understand that you're frustrated that you ordered your meal 30 minutes ago and that it's not here, but its lunch and the closest thing I've gotten to a meal is a saltine cracker I stole from the drawer and swallowed whole. When your nurse is at lunch, please know that this is probably the first time he/she has sat down for more than 7 minutes all day and that this time is important to decompress and EAT. We'll be a lot nicer if were not hangry. 


3. "Enjoy Your Weekend"

One of the gals I went to nursing school with shared a story with me- It was a Friday night and as she was saying goodbye to her patient they begrudgingly remarked, "Have a good weekend, I'll be stuck here". (Generally speaking, a nurse's weekend shift runs Friday- Sunday and is every third weekend. This usually only means one weekend a month, but sometimes its 2.) She replied, "I'll be back tomorrow, I'll be here with you throughout the weekend." While I'm sure the hospital wasn't this patient's ideal weekend plan, what they failed to understand was that it's not ours either, but it's part of our job, and we do it fairly often. Not to mention, we do it on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, whatever. You name the day, we're there. In a way, the patient's comment was deeply disrespectful although probably not by intent. My guess is it was is plea for sympathy because he was "stuck at the hospital over the weekend", but gave no regard for the health care workers that were there too, helping him, with positive attitudes. 


2. Happy Hour

I'm sure you've heard/read how often nurses complain about not having enough time. In all honesty, we do it a lot- but I promise you theres truth to it. Personally, I love to chat. I love to hold conversation, get to know someone, hear about their experiences and spend time with them. When I decided to become a nurse, this was one of my favorite aspects of the job. I couldn't wait to get to know someone while taking care of them. As I've progressed in my career, I've learned how hard that is. Its impossible to actively engage in a conversation while passing medications or performing a dressing change as we have to stay focused for our patient's safety. By the time I'm done with the technical side of why I came into the room, I have another room I need to go visit for the same reason. I named this section "Happy Hour" because in my perfect nursing world, I could sit and chat; get to know you, catch up with you. I would love that, because as your nurse, I care about you, and yes I absolutely 100% want to see a picture of your dog dressed up in a Christmas sweater. Please know that when I'm rushed out of the room, it's never because I don't care. 


1. I Never Clocked Out

I can't count the times I've cried in my car after work. I can't count the prayers I've said for the patients I took care of that day. I wish there was a switch I could turn off when I step out of the hospital, but I've yet to find one.  Taking care of those in their worst state really takes a tole on the heart, one that really sticks with you. I've never gone home and not thought about something I could have done differently or something I wish I would have said because the reality is, you won't heal everyone. Not every patient gets better. Not every patient goes home. It's the kind of thing that hits your soul, really makes you think. The relationship between a patient and a nurse is so special and quite frankly, hard to describe. You carry the burden with your patient and it can be hard to step away from and detach yourself at the end of the shift. Chances are, if you cried about it, I did too. After all, "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others".


Thank you to Maevn Uniforms for the adorable scrubs I wore in this post! Be sure to check them out at maevnuniforms.com 

Hannah Vance