Thursday, June 26, 2014

Advice for health care professionals- treat patients the way you want to be treated

A few months ago I had the unfortunate experience of being a patient in the emergency department. I was brought in by ambulance at 3:30 am in acute heart failure. I was scared, tired and overwhelmed. I was immediately seen by a medical student but did not see a nurse or doctor for over an hour. I finally saw the nurse who told me she was going to draw blood and put in another IV. (I already had a functioning IV from the ambulance). She proceeded to stick me several times and then pull out 2 functioning IVs because she had decided they were infiltrated. Being a nurse practitioner myself I am often critical of health care providers but I keep my opinions to myself. I was so upset that she had done this that I felt the need to tell her. She actually started yelling at me and told me she got a negative vibe from me as soon as she walked in the room and she had never felt that way before about a patient. I actually burst into tears because I had never been treated so badly by a nurse and I couldn't believe this was happening. I pointed out to her that it was 3:30am and I was in the emergency department with serious heart failure and I was scared and I didn't want to be there and she admitted she hadn't even thought about how I was feeling in the situation.

Many health care providers just come to work every day, do their jobs and go home. If they are an ED nurse their job may be to line and lab every patient. If they are a night shift tech they might be expected to take 2am vital signs. An ED tech might be expected to do EKGs on every patient who comes in with chest pain. Everyone wants to do their job in the most efficient way possible and they may not think about the effects of their efficiency on the patient.

For example:
A female patient comes into the emergency department complaining of chest pain. She is met by a tech who immediately pulls down the front of her gown and does an EKG. The tech then leaves the stickers from the EKG stuck all over her skin "for next time." Next a nurse comes in an hooks her up to monitors but doesn't bother to untangle them and she ends up tangled up in monitor cables while the nurse sticks her several times to put in an IV even though she already has one "because that's what  we do." Then she sees a doctor who acts like he is bored and doesn't bother to explain what is going on and then she doesn't see him again for several hours.

A female patient comes into the emergency department complaining of chest pain. She is met by a tech who does an EKG with respect to her privacy and does not expose her. The tech then pulls off the stickers when he is done with the EKG so that her skin does not become irritated. Next the nurse comes in an hooks her up to the monitor but untangles everything so she is not tied up in monitor cables. Nurse draws blood efficiently and avoids unnecessary sticks. Nurse also asks patient if there is anything she can do to make her more comfortable. Doctor then comes in and listens to what patient is saying, outlines what will happen while she is in the ED and keeps her updated on the plan.

If you were the patient, which one would you want? Isn't this common sense??

I challenge all health care professionals. In the next week, think of 3 instances where you have a job task that could be done in a different way to make the patient more comfortable. Don't turn the overhead light on at 2am to do vital signs. Offer the patient something to drink. Keep your patient updated that you are still waiting for their labs to come back. Do your job task but do it in a more patient friendly way.

I'd love to hear how it goes.


  1. I just have to say Great information. I like how you have presented your information in outstanding detail. Thanks for sharing it !

    Doctors in Training Step 1 2014

  2. If you set out to make me think today; mission accomplished! I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.