Being a family member is educational

Gran and dadI just wrote a post over on another blog site about when the nurse is the family member. It is educational. Every time my dad is hospitalized, I learn more. I hope my education ends soon and he gets better, but it sort of looks like he's getting worse. He's perked up for the moment, but who knows. As the RN, I have no idea what goes on in each room. I think I do, but I don't. I don't know how time flows differently, for one thing. As the RN, I am too busy to pee and feel like I'm leveling myself to be everywhere at once. As a family member, you don't see the RN all that much. I know they're busy, but even knowing that I feel neglected. WE PRESSED THE BUTTON FIVE MINUTES AGO.

As the RN, I don't know the horrible exhaustion that sets in from having to camp out in uncomfortable chairs and trying to sleep with one eye open to watch your loved one, in case he twitches in that way that means he needs a pain pill or his foot rubbed or to be repositioned or given a drink. I don't know the mind-numbing blurring of time and senses that make you just stop trying to read or watch TV or do anything but sit there waiting for something to happen, and I have no idea about how filthy just sitting in a hospital room makes family members feel. I spit-shine my patients, but I've never given much thought to the folks staying with them. Doesn't matter in the ER, but I could've done a better job in the ICU for sure.

As the RN, I am frustrated by family members asking me to do my job differently. As the family member, please just fucking be flexible and do it my way. It doesn't matter to you, RN, but it matters to me, and since I'm about to lose it, could you just give me a break and let me have my way? Set the lock on the wheelchair before you transfer my frail, 127-pound father who will die if he breaks a bone. Put a gait belt on him even though I know you think you could easily catch him anyway. Leave his working peripheral line in even though he has a port, because last night he needed blood, and I don't want him stuck again. Don't give him his Reglan WITH his meal. I know you're busy, RN, but I'm asking nicely.

As the RN, I feel like I'm updating families constantly. And my dad's nurses were probably doing it about like I do. It's not enough. And they don't answer what we want to know: how IS he? He did have one nurse who reminded me of myself, and I tracked her down in the hallway and said, "Look, I don't take care of cancer patients. Do they all do like this? Because he looks damn sick to me and no one gives us a straight answer." She said, "No, he IS damn sick. I would worry too if I were you." Thank you, RN, for speaking honestly with me. And I think I am actually good about that when I'm the RN.

I recently cared for an elderly fall patient whose daughters were uncharacteristically grateful and complimentary to me, and now I know why. It's because things kept going wrong with her, and I told them why I was doing things in the order I was ("I normally wouldn't leave this situation the way it is, but because of THAT, my priority is THIS...."). I even remember saying, "If this were my parent, this is how I would want it done." I wish I could take care of ALL of my patients that way. I can't, in an ER, nor should I, probably, but knowing the heartbreak of being on the other side of the bed is undoubtedly making me a better nurse.