Friday, October 14, 2016

Patients That Changed My Life: Susan

As a nurse, I have the chance to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. Some are fun, some are not so fun. Then there are those that change my life, and changed the kind of nurse I am. For privacy purposes, I won’t use real names, but I want to tell you their stories.

To read about previous patients, click here.

When working in skilled nursing, sometimes it’s so easy to go through the motions. We have a huge cart full of cards and each card has a medication. We pull the cards out, we check the boxes or click on the button to indicate that we’re giving the medication and then we carry the cup of meds into the patient’s room.

I had one patient, Susan, who was admitted in the later evening, and her admission was a little bit of a mess. She was having a difficult night, which is understandable. No one wants to be in a skilled nursing facility. Add to that, doctors just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She was grumpy, and most of her medications weren’t even in the facility. I spent the evening running around, calling pharmacy, searching our pixus and generally pulling my hair out. Finally, I got the majority of the medications, brought them to her room and she had decided to take a shower. So I labeled the cup with her initials, put it in the top of my cart and continued to the next patient.

About twenty minutes later, Susan asked for her medications. I grabbed the cup and brought it into her, and she asked me what the medications were. I honestly couldn’t remember. I’d prepared them twenty minutes before, and I’d passed medications to at least three or four other patients since that time. She was appalled and told me that she wouldn’t take any of the pills until I could tell her what they were.

I’ll admit, it was a long night. Susan and I went back and forth several times before she finally took her meds. But she taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned as a nurse. It’s too easy to go through the motions, or to take an order and just follow it. As a nurse, we should be doing more. We should know exactly what we’re giving our patients, and why. They depend on us. This patient was able to ask questions, to tell me that she wasn’t comfortable with specific medications. There are others who don’t have that luxury.


Since then, I’ve always stopped when preparing medications. Whether I’ve done every night for the past six months, or whether it’s their first night in the building, I always make sure that I know what they’re taking. And I make sure that they know what they’re taking. It’s my responsibility to protect my patients, and the best way to do that is by keeping them informed.