As a nurse for over three decades, I have been on both sides of the bed. I have felt the anguish and frustration of being a patient as well as cared for patients myself. Here is my list of 10 things that patients do that irritate nurses:
1. Ask for pain medication right on the button
The nurse has just given a report that you have been given your pain medication exactly as ordered and I hear, “Nurse, my pain is really bad.” There are times when it truly hurts; but nine times out of ten this complaint is followed by the inevitable question: “Do you think I can get some more medication now?” No, we do not make those decisions. Your physician does. We give the medication according to orders and if your doctor wants to change them later we will let you know. If we gave everyone who asked for pain medicine their wish our drug cabinets would be empty in no time at all.
2. The too-proud patient
Your right knee has been repaired and you are having a lot of pain. You ask for medication but refuse to let the nurse do passive range of motion exercises with your leg in order to help decrease some of that discomfort. Yes, it hurts too much to move your leg but this refusal affects treatment. Those gentle exercises would bring blood flow to the area which would promote healing so it is really important they are done–but if you prefer not to have them done then please at least let us provide ice packs or draw warm blankets over your leg so it is kept warm.
3. Wants an IV right away
You come into the emergency room feeling pretty good only to be told you need an intravenous line put in for fluid administration. You don’t want to have one because you are afraid of needles so the nurse leaves your side only to return five minutes later and find you with a plastic bag over your forearm trying to do it yourself. Please remember that we will be doing this procedure for a reason–and if you take matters into your own hands, it means a longer wait for everyone else until we can get back in there.
4. Wants something done but won’t follow through
You have been told not to eat or drink anything for twelve hours before surgery and you can’t recall if you took your sedative. You know the anesthesiologist will ask so you call the nurse to your room four times in a half hour asking her to verify what has been said. She does each time only to see you grab a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice each time she leaves. If this happens enough, we will stop responding at all–and that is no good for anyone
5. Doesn’t want anyone touching him/her
The patient screams that he doesn’t like having his sheet straightened out by the nurse because it hurts when she does this (it doesn’t). He complains his pillows aren’t fluffed enough (they are), or when the nurse needs to take his blood pressure or temperature, he says “Don’t touch me!” You wonder why we don’t help you unless we absolutely have to come near you? We’re thinking about that too!
6. The dramatic patient!
The patient talks nonstop about how ill he or she is. The nurse’s repeated attempts to quiet them fall on deaf ears and, in fact, the more they are told that what they are experiencing isn’t unusual for someone in their condition, the louder their voice gets until it becomes a yell. I’ve seen people get so wound up that family members walk out of the room because it is just too upsetting to listen to anymore–and everyone suffers.
7. Prefer their home healthcare worker over the hospital nurse
If you take a private duty nurse with you when you are admitted to the hospital, we can appreciate that. But please understand that our staff is different from your at-home provider and it will always be this way. The person who cares for you in your home does so because she or he has that special relationship with you–so just because they vouch for us doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily get along. And while we surely don’t want to come between friends, we do expect your private duty nurse to respect our role as caregiver and not undermine us by telling you what we say “doesn’t matter” and what we offer isn’t necessary.
8. Abusing the call button
You are hungry, you are thirsty, you are cold, the bed is too hard–you know what to do. You’ve been taught how to use that call button for emergencies–that’s what it’s there for. Please don’t abuse it and if we happen to respond quickly to an emergency (and we always do) please remember that another patient may need us just as badly and might not get the same attention. And when you come in later with a piece of toast or a glass of water, all I can think about is that other patient who has been waiting and wondering why nobody came!
9. Not appreciating the work done by others
The patient makes sarcastic remarks about how long it takes to get lab results, or constantly complains about lunch being brought up so late even though you have explained why this is so. The nurse can say all she wants that “the doctor ordered X” and “we didn’t know what you wanted to eat for lunch” but those comments fall on deaf ears as they continue to complain. We don’t mind patients having an opinion–in fact we like it–but we do not like patients who constantly make negative remarks! It does take time and effort to draw blood; collect specimens; process lab results; check and recheck x-rays; bring food trays and water bottles….and all that takes time. And it’s never appreciated!
10. Not taking responsibility for his/her own care
The patient is unwilling to follow the rehab plan, won’t do their exercises or they don’t eat what has been ordered. You can verbalize this directly but they usually turn around and say something like “I’m not doing it because nobody told me.” Well, you probably didn’t realize that you had to read your nursing notes–which are all on your computer screen by the way–and call the nurse if there was something you didn’t understand about your treatment plan. Please remember that we are providing care based on a doctor’s orders; feel free to call us anytime if you have questions or concerns about how much work is too much, what food you should be eating, etc.
These 10 things are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to patient care issues–we could write a book! But hopefully some of these tips might help you gain some insight into what we go through on a daily basis. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own treatments and busy schedules that we forget what it feels like to not know why somebody is doing something for us or how difficult it can be when nobody takes responsibility for their own care.
So next time think twice before blurting out “Have you got nothing better to do?” or another sarcastic remark about how long they’ve been in your room! Take your meds without complaining every day; eat every bite on your tray and say thank you when you leave the food area; ask questions if you don’t understand something and be willing to do your part in your recovery.
That’s the Nurses life!