My Shoes, Your Shoes: Whose Shoes?
- Posted on: 6/19/08
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In the Patient’s Shoes
I remember how upsetting it was for me when I got triaged and still had to wait for several more hours to be seen by a doctor. When I was a patient (and everybody knows nurses and doctors make the worst patients), I wanted help the minute I was sick enough to come to the emergency department. I wanted help then, not later. I would sometimes become tearful, ugly, mad and say things that weren’t nice, just like some of my previous patients. After this experience, I now try hard to remember how I felt or what I might have done so I can better help patients during their waiting period.
In the Parent’s Shoes
I found out that being a parent of a sick child was one of the hardest things I had ever done. Watching my child be in pain or sick, I became an obsessed monster. I had the why’s:
Why isn’t someone doing something?
Why are we still waiting?
Why can’t you give them something now?
Why hasn’t the doctor seen them yet?
Why can’t you ask him to give them something now?
If you thought it got better when the doctor saw my child, you would be dead wrong. I then became the what and why monster:
Why is it taking so long?
What will the doctor do now?
Why can’t you give them something else?
What is taking so long with the results?
Why can’t you tell me anything?
I found that waiting on results and answers seemed like a lifetime, as did watching my child in pain, just like most parents would feel, regardless of the age of their child, whether newborn or in his or her 90’s. It made me realize that just keeping the patient’s family informed and letting them know you are checking on results can help ease their concern. It lets the families know you care enough to keep them updated.
The Spouse’s Shoes
I thought I could not have felt any worse than when I was a helpless parent with a sick child, but becoming the devastated spouse definitely matched that experience. As the wife of a sick husband, I become overwhelmed with I need:
I need you to do something for him now!
I need to know something now!
I need someone to tell me something!
I need you to tell me everything is going to be ok!
I need to see the doctor. I need to talk to him now!
I need to be with my spouse!
This is the time, when as professionals, we can do those little things that really make a difference for our patient’s family, parents, spouse, and friends, and even the patient himself. When we update the family on the patient’s status and let the patient also know that we talked to the family, then the family is more relaxed and the patient is calmer, too, not worrying about them. Little statements like:
Mr. / Mrs.__________, the doctor is getting started now and we will keep you updated. Mr./ Mrs. ______ is resting quietly at the present.
Or: We will let you know when the procedure is completed.
Or: If you get worried, ask the receptionist to call and we will give you an update.
And especially: Mr./ Mrs. _______ the procedure is completed and the doctor will be here shortly. Mr. / Mrs. _______ will be going to (location) and the nurses will let you see them just as soon as possible.
If we realize that the patient is upset, we usually ask, Is there someone we can call for you? or we ask our hospital chaplain to check on the family.
Some may think it doesn’t help, and that they are too busy to make all these calls, but I know it helps a great deal. When I was in the waiting room, not knowing if my husband would live or die, and then found out he had to have five-vessel bypass surgery, it really did help knowing that someone cared enough to keep me posted on his condition.
The Nurse’s Shoes
Being a medical professional, it is sometimes hard to keep focused on the positive, especially when I have had a really busy day and several emergencies, and face overbearing spouses, families, and angry patients, stressing me to the point of saying something out of anger. This is when I have to stop, take a deep breath, count to ten, and think for one minute. I try trading places with those people that are upsetting me, putting on their shoes and walking a mile. Thinking, What if it were I? What if:
Walking a mile in their shoes could make a world of difference in how you feel and or respond to many different circumstances. I know it did for me.
Mary Baser can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org