Generally speaking, we nurses do not make good patients. I am no exception. That little fact, though, manifests itself differently in each nurse. Some, upon finding themselves in that reversed role, will become hyper-critical with any and all medical personnel who are caring for them and just basically become the “plague” that everyone attempts to avoid. Others, myself included, tend to “clam up” unless a really unusual or dangerous situation warrants speaking up. Oh I’m watching and paying VERY close attention, but I will almost never say anything…. and never in a critical way.
I have discovered first-hand over the years that sometimes it’s best, when in the role of patient, to keep “mum” on the fact that I am a nurse. I used to let it slip early on in my various encounters until I experienced a wide range of reactions from my medical professional colleagues. Upon learning that you are “one of them”, some will instantly feel threatened and afraid that you are going to judge every little move on their part. Those folks then usually become very guarded and tend to avoid you, when you probably are really needing comfort and reassurance just like everyone else. Others will just assume that no matter what you’re there for, you already know everything about all aspects of whatever that entails and therefore they proceed to NOT go ahead and give you the needed instructions and/or patient education that they give to everyone else and that is so important to your outcome. Helloooooo……..just because your dermatologist is an MD doesn’t mean she/he also knows the best way to treat your congestive heart failure!! Nurses are no different………we in NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM can know everything about everything medical, like so many people think we do and/or should. And…..here’s another NEWS FLASH; many of us, just like the non-medical professional patients, are extremely nervous and uptight when in that dependent role and therefore our brains may be temporarily “addled” and needing a little extra instruction and/or TLC. Some of us who are nurses became such because of our own personal experiences with health issues that were very traumatic….maybe to the point of causing what we call “white coat syndrome” whenever we are now in the role of patient. For you lucky souls who aren’t familiar with that term, it simply refers to someone who becomes extremely stressed and nervous, no matter how simple or severe the problem, every time they have to go to the doctor’s office or hospital for their own medical problems. This causes their blood pressure, heart rate and respirations to skyrocket no matter if they are there for a hangnail or an amputation!! I happen to be a card-carrying member of this club. Oh, you would NEVER, EVER know that though, because I APPEAR to be cool as a cucumber and this little ‘gremlin’ operates in ‘stealth mode’ in me……to the casual observer. Then there are those folks who, for whatever reason, think that since you’re a nurse, you can just go ahead and take care of your own needs while you’re there, instead of them doing what they’re supposed to, like they do for everyone else. Lastly, there are those who, when you reveal to them..or when they detect it from your use of terms or apparent knowledge, will instantly bond with you …….recognizing you as a fellow member of the wonderful “sisterhood/brotherhood” we are proud to claim. That was my experience Friday when I was, once again, in the role of patient, undergoing some further testing. I had two rounds of “testing”…one in the am and one in the afternoon. In the morning’s events, I received some rather scary news. So, when I went for the 2nd round in the afternoon, I was already feeling scared, sad, nervous and just totally out of sorts…..like I was in a foreign country all alone or something. If you read my last blog post, you’re probably getting sick of me sharing this type of grandiose experience…but I can’t help it. As you may remember, I was utterly FLOORED by my unexpected encounter with God’s “warriors” in that post. Well, more of the same took place this past Friday in the form of 3 people I had to interact with in the course of my afternoon testing. The first one didn’t know that I’m a nurse and she shared part of her own story…..which “ironically” includes a rather rare miracle that we both share … and she so encouraged and comforted me to the moon and back. To the point where I was so touched I had to get the ol’ Kleenex out. The second person, a fellow RN, didn’t know about my “hidden credentials” right away. If you know me at all, you know that LAUGHTER is just about my most favorite thing, and if you can make me laugh, you’ve got my heart in your pocket. Well, in the course of what she was doing for me, she was just a HOOT….making me laugh like crazy. After awhile, she kinda caught herself and apologized for the frivolity. It was at that point that I felt I had to let her know “who” I was and that her making me laugh was NOTHING to apologize for. Quite the opposite, it was to be CELEBRATED!!!! Once I revealed our “common ground”, I could FEEL the “little foot path” between us instantly morph into the Golden Gate Bridge!!! Oh my gosh, then we laughed like hyenas about anything and everything….it was WONDERFUL and soooooo put me at ease. Then the 3rd person came in and it was more of the same. I could work with these 3 gals every day of the year and be a very happy camper. And you can never convince me that God, in His infinite love and wisdom, did not plan it to be exactly like that for me at that time….never. He knew what I needed and when I needed it, as He always does.
No, we nurses do not usually make good patients. When it comes to our own health issues, we know just enough to keep our minds and imaginations working overtime….and not usually in a good way. But sometimes being “the patient” is not a choice, and at those times it sure is wonderful to encounter those of our “comrades in arms” who accept the challenge of caring for us in amazing and exemplary ways, despite the unique little “twists” we may bring to their already full table. To all of you past, present and future…..who have, are or will be taking care of me when I’m “the patient”, I raise my glass to you and fill yours’ from a bottomless pitcher of gratitude, thanks and praise for the warrior’s work you do every day.