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The life and times of a male RN (part III)

Updated on November 19, 2015

Life as a male RN: Obnoxious Patients

This column’s topic is about obnoxious patients. Now those who have been to a hospital are thinking, how about the obnoxious staff? Patients can never be obnoxious, if they appear to be, it’s just that they are confused or scared. If there are obnoxious people in the world, there are obnoxious patients.

First, there are those patients who seem to like pressing the call light in the hospital. Most places I worked have a red button call light. I call it the “Red Button of Redemption.” Since I work days, I encourage my patient to press the button continually, after 7:30pm. Some patients will just hold down the call button and not let go until they see someone. This makes it hard to actually cancel the light (you’re thinking, well I want to be seen, not just heard over an intercom). Still, by holding down the button doesn’t make the person come into your room faster (just like those who press the elevator button six times thinking the elevator will open faster). It still is a two way street, patients want to see staff when the button is pushed, the faster the better will result in less patient anxiousness. Next, there are those confused patients that keep pushing the button because it’s something to push. I had a patient such as this, and from the intercom speaker, it sounded like train wheel clicking on a track, almost makes some sort of rhythm you can dance to (Now you’re thinking that I’m obnoxious). My question is that why give a confused patient that doesn’t even know his\her name a call light because they will not understand how to use it. Why not just do routine checks on that patient because that would make more sense. Also, on this topic, why does a confused person who does not know his\her name be able to escape from their bed or room (why are confused people so desperate to escape, and when asking them where are they going, they don’t know)? If a person wanted to escape from something, they should watch a confused patient in a hospital setting.

Second, there are those obnoxious patients who are there for pain medication. I am a believer in giving pain medications. At times, the pain medication given to the patient is more for the nurse’s sanity and not simply to relieve the patient’s pain. If a nurse refuses to give pain medications to patients, or is always late in giving the medication, the nurse should be prepared to have a long day of call lights and attitude from patients. My idea is that sleeping patients do not call you, so why not relieve their pain? These types of pain medications are not the issue here, but those who have fallen in love with the medication (it must be love because these types of people sacrifice money, family, friends, and a normal life for these medications, and to me that’s love). I had a patient who wanted the staff to push the IV pain medication into the bloodstream fast, so the patient could actually “taste” it. What the patient actually tastes is the saline flush that comes after the medication, much like a plunger affect to make sure all the medication is in the bloodstream. Another patient used to remind me fifteen minutes earlier that the medication was due shortly. It wasn’t that my dosing of his medication was late; the patient just watched the clock in the room anticipating the due time. These people watch the clock throughout the day to make sure they get it on time. That same clock watcher talked to the P.A. (physician’s assistant, these people can write scripts and do whatever it takes in the doctor’s stead….more vocabulary for the layman) and the PA changed the dosing. That patient quickly called me and told me that the medication dosing had changed and the he needs it now. The weird thing, and the expression on the patient’s face was priceless, was the PA decreased the dose. That patient was furious and demanded I call the doctor or PA and get this fixed fast. It was fixed after a phone call, but that took some time for the return call. I like those patients who, when asked what their pain level is at that time, in a calm manner and no grimacing tell me it’s a 13 (now the pain scale is from 0-10, ten being the most pain. With saying all that, if you are in the hospital and in pain, ask for the medication. If you wait too long, the pain medication will not be as effective as when the pain first started.

My last example of an obnoxious patient are the ones that refused care. If you do not want the care, why did you come to the hospital in the first place? I had a patient with an infection in his foot, a diabetic and on dialysis, refused his antibiotics and blood work. The patient already had part of his foot removed because of this problem. The man would take up your time, fight with the doctors and nurses and act like he knows best. If he did not want treatment, then why did he come? All he did was take time away from those who want help and care. That day he just left the hospital and told no one. The sad thing is that this was not his first time at the hospital that year, he came regularly to fight and bicker. I’m not saying if you have a bad attitude or hate the system, do not come, but I am saying come in with an attitude of a teachable spirit.

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