Dealing with Difficult Hospital Staff
The overwhelming majority of hospital staff caring, courteous and professional but there are the odd times when you have to deal with someone that is not. Before I discuss how I deal with these difficult situations I will use a few examples to illustrate how some hospital staff are extremely devoted and caring. Most of my examples use physicians or nurses since I come in contact with them a lot but there are many other hospital staff that also go the extra mile.
- Nurses that listen to you. People with chronic health conditions often, though not always, know the course of their disease well and a good nurse (and doctor) will factor that in when assessing and dealing with their patient. There are certain meds that bother you when they are infused into me quickly and when I tell them they slow things down. They agree and say “you know your own body better than we do”. Also, I have a permanent IV line and when I tell nurses I take meticulous care of my line and prefer to access the line myself they don’t give me much trouble. Later in this post I will discuss some ways that I explain this so they understand and are not offended.
- Understanding my fears. When I am undergoing something traumatic to me (it may be something that is not a big deal to others) I let the nursing staff know I am scared. This helps me recognize and convey my fears and helps them know where I am coming from. During one of my forst blood transfusions I was scared (of an allergic reacrion) and I had a nurse sit by my bedside, (and I think miss their break), so that she could alleviate my fears. Before undergoing colonoscopies, endoscopies or a double-balloon enteroscopy I let the staff know I am nervous and this helps. I have had nurses talk me through in a calm voice exactly what they will do and how they will do it. They also tell me to let them know if the pain is getting too bad.
- Just being there for me. THere are a group of great interventional radiology physicians at nurses at the hospital where I receive most of my care that perform vascular access procedures. They are amazing, caring and professional. Anyone with a central line knows that problems may arise that need trouble shooting. They don’t mind when I pop in to ask them a question or two or help me troubleshoot my line. They always have an encouraging word for me and I always have a smile on my face when I leave.
- Physicians that care. I have had severe complications from Crohn’s that have resulted in severe GI bleeds (over several hours) resulting in numerous blood transfusions. There is one physician a GI physician with extensive endoscopy experience and he is the one of the nicest doctors I have ever met. I had numerous GI bleeding episodes resulting in numerous hospital stays without finding the source of the bleed. This doctor did not give up he always had an encouraging word whether it was in the emergency department at 6 am or 7 pm in the evening when he was getting ready to leave for the day. HE told me he would not give up and would even “open an operating room in middle of the night (that’s where they typically do double balloons) and call in the endoscopy staff to get it done. Eventually we did find the source of the bleed and it still took numerous procedures until it was fixed but he did not give up hope! This was about 6 years ago and I still see him on occasion and he always asks me how I’m doing and takes a real interest in me as a person.
- Other hospital staff. I have had porters that have been very kind to me telling me stories and getting me extra blankets. Housekeeping staff that go the extra mile. A personal support worker that one time brought me every personal care product under the sun to make sure I was comfortable. Food staff that always had a smile on their face to brighten up my day
This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination but you probably get the idea. Now, on to the other part, how to deal with staff that are not caring or professional. We ll here are some things that I keep in mind and have tried in the past that have worked.
- The right attitude. It could be the nurse, doctor or other hospital staff is having a bad or hard day. Although that’s no excuse for them to not behave nicely toward you it may happen. Treat the person with kind words tell them you appreciate everything they are doing etc. I find this often helps and most of the time they will change their attitude.
- Make it about yourself. Don’t get a physician or nurses back up and make them become defensive. If you have an issue, say the health care worker does not wash their hands before performing a procedure on you then make it about yourself. You an say something like “would you mind please washing your hands before we start. I am sure you already did/or your hands are clean but I have had other people who don’t and I am nervous about this. I have had (or my friend has had) infections in the hospital already and it would give me piece of mind to know that I won’t have to worry about this.
- Offer or insist on doing things yourself. If the above two things don’t work then say that you would like to do X. This will only work for things that you can do like maybe hook up your IV to your catheter, give yourself a shot or the like. For other procedures this obviously won’t work.
- Get someone else to do it. Sometimes during breaks or shift changes another nurse will come in to cover for your nurse. You may have a better rapport with this other nurse so get them to do things that you don’t want your own nurse to do. For example, you can say, “while your here would mind please hooking me up to my IV” or “if you have a minute can you please change my dressing”.
- As a last resort you can insist on changing a nurse. speak to the charge nurse, explain the problems. This may help resolve things but if not then insist that going forward for the remainder of the hospital stay you do not want this nurse. I have had over twenty in hospital stays (probably closer to thirty) some for very long periods of time and I think Ihave only had to resort to number four a couple of times.
All in all, healthcare practitioners are polite, professional, dedicated and compassionate. However, they are humans too and may have a bad day. Hopefully the above thoughts will help you out. Now, sometimes things can get really bad and get life threatening. This happened to me once after a perforated bowel and how we dealt with i,t well that’s for another time…