Patience for patients.

May 3rd, 2015

One thing I’ve learnt about being a nurse, is that you have to have patience. And I’m not just talking about an average, normal, traffic tolerating patience – oh no, not by far.

I’m talking about the need to come equip with the heavy duty-toddler-screaming-Sunday-afternoon-drivers-doing-50k-under-the-speed-limit-puppy-chewing-squeaky-toy-being-on-hold-to-centerlink-for-3-hours kind of patience as a nurse, and to be quite honest with you… Sometimes I don’t even think that’s enough.

Take it from the nurse who spent four ten hour night shifts in a row dealing with patients who took patience like it was going out of date and made it look effortless. Only to have the doctors arrive first thing in the morning, see the patient for five minutes and then accuse the nurses of not properly taking care of the patients based on an extravagant story the patient has conjured up out of thin air (the notion that nurses dislike doctors holds some debatable truths, but that didn’t come from me – said aspiring doctor herself).

Now to be entirely fair, it’s only every now and then I come across these special group of people who hold the ability to make any nurse quite literally blow steam through her nostrils. In actual fact, we probably spend majority of our time really absolutely liking our cute little oldies with the ‘blissfully unaware’ dementia and joking with the ones that haven’t reached that point yet. Hell, two days ago we woke a patient up bright and early to sing Happy Birthday to him and decorate his bed space with balloons and banners (not that he was overly impressed with us given the hour).

Usually, caring for our patients takes no patience at all. And I love that.

Until the theatre nurses arrive with a little gift fresh out of surgery that makes you wonder just how fantastic a career change to a Veterinary Nurse would be in the likely guarantee that the patients there most definitely wouldn’t buzz for the nurse 6 times to announce that the oxygen nasal prongs were vividly telling him to stop breathing and that he had tried to do as they said…twice.

Believe you me, it becomes quite the task to continue smiling politely at the patient without a diagnosis of dementia while you explain to them that “No, the pumps connected to you are not going to catch fire and burn your blood vessels from the inside out”.

Or answer the seemingly emergent nurse call to which the patient announces that his foot hurts, and on inspection of a perfectly fine looking foot further adds to his claim that it hurts because he hasn’t moved it, leaving you with the only logical answer of “Well, how about you move it then?” to which the patient agrees and moves his foot.

Problem solved. Now aren’t you glad you ran all the way down the hallway for that big emergency? I generally try to put situations like these down to being a good form of exercise. Project ‘Find The Silver Lining’ I call it.

I guess I’m slowly teaching myself how to smile at these situations rather than feel exasperated. I force myself to remember that being sick brings out the worst in us all – I should know. I get particularly whiney and miserable at just the sight of a running nose. And I will complain for well over a week about it.

And while I don’t think I’d come out with absurd statements like my patients certainly do, I sure can imagine being cut open in five different ways wouldn’t make my day either so I’m trying to reserve a little understanding.

They say that Patience is a Virtue – and I’m inclined to agree with that. I think that having patience beyond comprehensible boundaries makes all the difference in a person. And I’ve found that people warm to those who know how to smile and find exceeding grace for those that push the neat, little envelope packaging of patience itself.

So I’m working on it. Because I’d like to be the nurse whose heart works a little more overtime in the patience department.

And who knows, one day I might even lose the ability to quite literally blow steam out my nose!

d x


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