Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Call me Jeeves. Actually, please DON'T.

I will never understand how it is that I can come into work a little before 7pm, be seen multiple times throughout the shift by my patients, and still, in the wee hours of the morning, have them ask me things like, "Is it raining?"

I am working on a response that is sweet and polite but still conveys the point that I want to make (but look like I made it inadvertently): "Let's think about the fact that we both know I've been up here on the fourth floor in the middle of a hospital for the past eight hours and you just asked me what the weather is like outside...especially when you have three windows in your room and I have none at the nurses' station." I know that sounds horribly rude, but for some reason, there's always been a part of me that maybe not-so-secretly wants people to know when they have just asked me a question that they know I don't know the answer to any better than they do.

Again, I know that sounds SO rude, but I promise, I'm not! I feel stupid all the time. Jokes, satirical comments, puns....they fly feet over my head on a daily basis. My desire is NOT for people to feel stupid, because I know what that's like and it's yucky as can be. I guess my desire in situations like these is for people (in this case, my patients) to see me as another imperfect human being just like them, and not as a robotic supplier of every object and piece of information they need.

Maybe these questions frustrate me because they are in conjunction with the call light ringing out at 3am because a patient's tissues are just slightly out of reach or their pillows have flattened and need to be fluffed, and they absolutely NEEEEEEED me. After awhile, the questions they so easily assume I can answer without considering my situation look more and more like the times that something is slightly inconvenient and they need me to swoop in and save the day. It appears that patients have begun to think that if I can give them a pill to make their pain go away, help them to the restroom, and dress their wounds, then certainly they can count on me for everything they need around the clock, nursing-related or not. I suppose that this should be a compliment - people seeing me as useful and beneficial - but after awhile, it gets very old having to let people down. It even gets depressing being surrounded by so many people who have no problem having someone wait on them hand and foot for things that they are capable of doing themselves. Don't they want their autonomy? Even if I could give them everything they asked for, I wouldn't - because it doesn't do them any good to not do anything for themselves.

For the third time, that sounded SO rude - but you need to understand that on my unit, people aren't "hospital sick." They've come off the acute care units and the point of them being here is to start doing as much as possible for themselves so that they can go home and care for themselves again. RE-HAB-IL-I-TA-TION. We've recently had an increasing number of people treat us more like room service in a hotel than as nurses. This is NOT for ONE SECOND to say that I mind helping people in need (IN NEED). If it is someone who has had a hip replacement and their box of Kleenex is on the floor, I am absolutely going to come in and pick it up for them. We just need to gently teach these people to come out of the habits they've developed on the other floors of beckoning their nurses at the drop of a hat, which is a little more appropriate when one is still in the acute phase of his/her illness.

I guess we rehab nurses can be viewed as the "bad guys" in that we are helping our patients best when we basically communicate, "I'm not doing that. Do it yourself." (Of course, we never word it that way - maybe some do, but I'd be appalled if I heard it.) A nurse in pretty much any other area of practice would be snotty for saying that, but the point of our floor is to supervise and support people as they rebuild their strength, relearn activities of daily living, and basically become independent again. They don't always like it - okay, they hardly EVER like it - but we know that, deep down, it means a lot to them to be able to fend for themselves. They don't have to tell us that.

Wow, I started this post thinking, "I'm posting about my annoyance regarding weather questions. How short and pointless is this going to be?" Now look what it's become! I guess I had a few things on my mind....


Stephanie said...

I can TOTALLY relate! At my old, horrible job as a "community support worker" - really, a wordy title for babysitter of people who think they are entitled to everything and only want you to do everything under the sun for them. It sucked. Yes, some of them actually needed help with things, but the majority were lazy and just felt the DESERVED EVERYTHING. I was so frustrated and irritated (because of course, they did not appreciate anything) that I would cry almost every other day. It sounds like you're handling it better than I did, though! :)
And I think that you should speak your mind more. It's not mean. People sometimes need to hear these things!!!... But I understand if you don't, because I never could. I just cried in my car on my way to my next "client's" house. lol.

Glamorous Life of a House Wife said...

Oh don't feel bad at all. I have multiple things like this run through my mind ALL.DAY.LONG at work. If I were to voice them, I would be on everyone's hit list. I think when we get stuck doing the same thing day in and day out, we just get FRUSTRATED at things that most people would overlook. AH! It's annoying, but I'm right there with ya.

Hannah said...

Dealing with people can be frustrating. So hang in there, I completely understand!

Casey said...

My office has no windows. I don't get to see the sky from when I walk in the door to when I leave on most days. It sounds very frustrating, but I would almost assume that by asking you about the weather they are using you as a connection to the outside world. I often find myself asking people that come in and out about the weather outside. When you are stuck inside for so long it is nice to know that the outside world still exists beyond the four walls that you see day in and day out. The patients are living vicariously through your ability to leave at the end of the day. I would think that even a simple answer of your part might give them comfort even if the weather is crappy outside at least it still exists. I can't imagine being stuck in the hospital for a long time not able to leave.

Sarah's Adventures said...

I know, and it does make me sad for them. I am happy to answer any weather questions when I've first come in and know what it's like outside - it's the questions at 3am that bug me. And again, they could easily look out the window and see. I know I sound awful,lol.