Friday, August 19, 2016

Simple Words

Sometimes, as a nurse, I feel like a glorified waitress. And a maid. And a personal butler. There are the patients who ask me to clean their room, or who want me to warm their food to a specific temperature. Or who need me to tuck them into bed just right. Or help them figure out how to use their electronic devices. Or change the DVD in the DVD player. I’ve had patients who want me to snake their toilets and others who want me to dial numbers on the phone for them.

Usually, I don’t mind. But there are the days when it feels like some patients don’t understand that I have more than one patient. And then there are the patients who call me into their room, and moments after I leave, they call me right back in. I’ve had patients who are on their call light thirteen or fourteen times an hour, and since there’s always a ding overhead when a call light goes off, it gets exhausting.

Imagine the scenario where I go into a patient’s room to give them their medications. We talk for a few minutes, and then when we finish I leave. Thirty seconds later, they call me back in and ask if I can close the blinds. Sure. No problem. I do that, and then I leave again. I get halfway down the hall when the familiar ding-ding starts again. I go in and the patient gives an apologetic smile and asks me to get a coke out of their fridge. Great. I grab the coke and again try to get back to my work. Halfway down the hall… well, you guessed it.

I hated working with those patients. I felt like they were doing it on purpose, or that they were wasting my time. Why couldn’t they just ask me when I was already in the room?

A few years ago, I worked at a facility where the administrator wanted staff to focus on six important words.

“Is there anything else you need?”

Before leaving any room, he insisted that we ask the patient if they needed anything else. It’s so simple, yet incredibly effective. I didn’t expect it to save me much time, but I’ve found, after putting it into practice, that when I’m not spending half of my time walking up and down the halls, I actually do get things done faster. And both the patient and I are much happier.

Imagine the same scenario. I go into a patient’s room and give them their medications. We talk for a few minutes, and then when we finish, I go to the door and ask, “Is there anything else you need?” Why yes! She wants me to close the blinds. Sure. No problem. I reach over, grab the blinds, and that’s it. “Anything else?” She wants a coke from the fridge. Got it. We do that until she shakes her head and can’t think of anything else.

That’s it. Such a time saver, but I never would have thought of it myself. Even though I’m no longer at the facility where I was taught to ask, I still put it into practice today. And I think I’m a better nurse for it.