Through the Eyes of a Patient | What Will Your Patients Remember?

Bobby McCarthy
Author, Bobbi McCarthy

How many of us nurses have been patients a time or two?  What do you recall from your experience in the hospital?


I have been a patient only a handful of times in my life~ thank you Jesus!  I have had 2 children that were delivered in the hospital…one experience, from my patient perspective, was good and one was very bad.  I had a day surgery experience which was wonderful and I have a childhood memory that was horrific.  What is interesting to me about the memories of these experiences is that my barometer of rating the experience is how I was treated by my nurses.  I cannot for a second recall the doctor in most of these experiences…hmmmmmm.

When I had my first child I was 19 years old, married and scared out of my mind! The labor was long and painful.  The nurses that tended to me during labor and delivery are somewhat of a blur…  After my daughter was a born, that night I was in terrible pain and alone in my room, (babies were taken to the nurse’s station area back then)  I rang my bell to tell the nurse I was in terrible pain with cramping…a very long time seemed to pass…an older nurse came in, didn’t identify herself and said, “what do you want?”  I told her my problem and she said, “What did you expect when you have a baby at 19…it will pass” and she left the room.  I cried myself to sleep.   I didn’t dare to ring that bell or ask a single question after that.

When I was 7 or 8 I was in the hospital for a few days with an acid problem in my stomach.  My mother came and went but at night I was alone.  I only remember one nurse and she had red hair, was overweight and mean.  She practically growled at me from what I recall…the one thing that really sticks out in my mind and I remember it vividly is night she came into my room and told me to roll over.  I was in bed playing don’t break the ice…I asked her why…she said, “I have to check your back for a rash.”  My mother wasn’t there and the other woman patient was gone too…I remember feeling scared but I wasn’t sure why.  I asked the nurse if she was going to give me a shot.  She said no.  I rolled over and she pulled my bottoms down and quickly shoved a needle into my butt cheek and then left the room……I remember just crying and feeling so scared.

I wonder what was going on with the 2 nurses that I just spoke of?  From what the first nurse said to me I can presume she was hostile towards me because I was 19 and she felt  I was perhaps “loose…” and from the second nurse I can presume she didn’t like children…  either way their attitude toward their patient was disturbing and extremely unprofessional. Maybe they were burnt out?

I had not thought of these experiences in many years until yesterday when a scared pregnant teenager entered triage and asked where labor and delivery was.  My experience came rushing back like a flood. As I reflected on both of the mentioned experiences I cringed.  I have always made it a practice to enter the patient’s room with a smile, tell them my name and title and then address their issue.  I hope that I have NEVER treated anyone in such a manner as I was treated.  I am thankful for the experiences now and I’m thankful for the recall of them so that I can keep in mind the patient perspective.  Treating people/patients as we want ourselves and our families to be treated should be our motto as a nurse.  I’m thankful for the reminder today.

  • Mike Roddy

    Bobbi, this is a great read. Knowing you personally and professionally for many years I can validate your compassion as a nurse. I know you worked extremely hard to get where you are today. I remember many years ago as a young mother you were always studying, working two jobs and going to school. You certainly know what it takes to be a great nurse. When you were a patient that opportunity only broadened your outlook on nursing and I’m sure it has aided in circumstances like you mentioned.When I had spinal surgery in Portland 2 years ago I can honestly say (in my opinion) the emphasis on post surgery surveys overshadowed the common sense advice that should have been given to me, like how the anesthesia will wear off and you may experience nausea on your way home to Belgrade from Portland. As I was on all fours on the side of I-95 dry heaving it started to occur to me that whatever survey I was going to receive in a few days was really going to impact that hospital somehow, because they were so concerned with what I thought rather than how I was going to feel.I totally understand that as a nurse you have it extremely hard these days. The insurance companies have made it so that most patients get sent home sooner than they should and with that comes bad experiences followed by angry defensive patients. I won’t even get in to cost of health care fueling the negative outlook of today’s patient.So, in closing I understand how important the surveys and patient experiences matter to the hospital administration’s pie charts, I only wish they would let you nurses go back to doing what you do and not take critical time away from nursing to stress surveys and feel good messages.

    • Bobbi Mccarthy

      Mike~  thank you for the praises :)  You give some fabulous feedback on your experience and you are right on with the survey business and the feel good message that has become the driving force of care these days…I hope that you communicated your experience to the unit you were on…the dishcharge instructions are vital and now that you know what you were not told and what did happen to you on the way home, that unit needs to know how to better serve their patients. Thank you so much for sharing!!