- People in the hospital are rarely happy (ok, maybe in the maternity ward). I’m generally not seeing people when they’re at their best. I accept that and knew it going in. I understand if someone gets a little snippy, or forgets to say thank you if you go above and beyond to do something for them when they’re in significant pain. This week however, was a special low point when it comes to patient and family behavior. It started with a schizoaffective patient constantly screaming at me to stop playing mind tricks on them, and then having to be brought back by security after running amuck through the hospital hallways. That’s a mental illness, so I don’t take it personally. Then there was a family member accusing me and anyone who came in the room of not caring about the patient and ignoring them and their needs. Constant very passive aggressive loud muttering about everyone having their heads up their asses and waiting 30 minutes after pressing the call light (it was 5, our system shows us exactly how long it’s been). Sigh… deep breath, their family member doesn’t look to have a good outcome. I’ll cut them some slack.
- But then there was the real humdinger. A patient and family member who were both serious meth-heads, combined with a rainbow of other illicit substances, with no money, resources, or insurance, who were there for a trauma. For two days straight the patient yelled, screamed, cried, manipulated, and generally behaved like a flaming asshole to anyone unlucky enough to go in the room. The patient was getting enough pain medication to tranquilize a horse, yet screamed and cried that we were inflicting intentional torture. The family member would show up, hear this, and begin the litany of demands to see everyone from the charge nurse, floor supervisor, hospital president, and city mayor. The family member would then announce they couldn’t take their level of anger and had to leave before ripping someone’s head off. They’d return an hour or so later and it would begin again. This pattern repeated all day long. Any attempts to engage, refute, or otherwise point out they were being unreasonable only resulted in additional yelling, just at a louder volume.
- Twelve hours a day, for two days is a lot to take of that sort of behavior. I was pretty angry and frustrated each night when I got home. Upon reflecting on those days, I think I’m most angry at myself for putting up with it. At the time it seemed easier to mostly ignore it. All three scenarios were verbal battles that I wouldn’t win. These were not people who’s minds were going to be changed. It’s often less stressful to simply nod and say mmm-hmm and get out of the room as fast as possible so you can get on with the thousand other tasks you have to get done. But I didn’t realize how much the cumulative impact of continually taking the verbal abuse would affect me. On the drive home after day two I briefly thought what the hell am I doing? At my age I don’t need to put up with this crap. But I still like the job. It’s rewarding in many ways that working as an engineer for mega-corp never was. But it seems like the hospital population is more and more the mentally ill, the indigent, and drug users who are not capable of dealing with life in general. The bad behavior has become so common that when receiving report on the rare, “nice”, patient a nurse will make a point of letting you know, “you’re lucky, he/she looks like a normal person”.
- I’m not sure what the answer is. I could move to a clinic of some sort, but just taking blood pressures all day would be like watching paint dry. Besides, I’m in a spot where I have the perfect schedule. It would be hard to replicate it working on a different floor. I think I’m going to try an experiment. For the next few weeks I’m going to be a semi-jerk. There will be no shit taken from anyone. You want to be an asshole? I’m going to be one right back. Of course, in a professional manner. This may make my day more difficult (and certainly the charge nurses – people LOVE to escalate any perceived wrong at the drop of a hat), but I’ll be curious if my mental health will improve? Will I have an overall better outlook if I go home knowing that I didn’t accept any crap from people? Nursing is such a hard balance. How do you continually be compassionate for people in a bad situation, yet not let yourself become a doormat? If you know the secret, please let me know!
Song of the day: Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take it (Extended Version)