Thursday, February 21, 2008


Most people are familiar with the saying, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A DUMB QUESTION. If not, you're hearing it now. Let me tell you all why asking questions is important.

When you or your family member come into the hospital because of an illness, you need to be informed. Even if you've been a patient for countless times, things change every day. As a nurse, it is my job to be your advocate. I try to give an overview of the plan for my shift, but working in ICU, sometimes a patients condition changes dramatically. When they crash or are whisked off for emergent surgery, family members are undersandably distraught. It is very easy to forget important information the health team has given you.

Patients and families get told so much information, they are overwhelmed by everything. They forget what questions they wanted to ask me or the doctor handling their case. I encourage them to write things down just because there is so much to remember.

Communication is key to a great relationship between yourselves and your doctors and nurses. If you are not sure about something ask me. I often hear, "Oh, I didn't want to bother you." You are NOT bothering me! I'm am here for you. I can't relieve your pain or let the doctor know the pain medication I've given isn't working, if you don't inform me of how you are doing. And most important, don't tell me you're "fine" when you aren't. Every little change can be important. Even if you think it isn't.

Years ago I had a patient admitted with chest pain. He was in his forties and on a nitroglycerin drip through his IV to relieve his pain and keep his blood pressure down. Because of his strong family history of heart disease, several members in his family had undergone heart attacks; some requiring open heart surgery. Every time I came into his room to assess him, he told me he was okay and denied having chest pain. I actually weaned off his nitro drip because he denied pain.

I gave report in the morning to the day shift nurse and when I came back to work the next night, I learned he'd been whisked off for emergent open heart surgery. I was shocked! I asked the day nurse what had changed. He'd been so stable. She'd told me that during one of her assessments, he'd confessed to having had a "mild twinge all night long". He compared it to having a "twig sitting on his chest", but because his family members had told him when they'd had their heart attacks the pain had been like a train running over their chests, he didn't think he was experiencing the same thing. Had I known, I would have informed the doctor immediately and not have turned off the medication that was supposed to help him.

Another important thing to know. Don't let me come into your room and tell you to take a medication just because I give you a pill. Ask me what the pill is for. What effect will it have on your body and why you need to take it. I'll be happy to tell you all you need to know. I want you to be comfortable with the care you receive while you're in the hospital.

I hope to meet you in at Starbucks or Barnes and Noble. But if we happen to meet in my hospital talk to me and let me know how you are. I'll do my best to make your stay as pleasant as possible.


Lynnette Labelle said...

I'd gladly meet you in Starbucks or B&N any day! Well, if we lived closer. Hahaha.

Kathleen Grieve said...

It's a date, Lynnette! But we're leaving kids and husbands at home!