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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.

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