Monday, November 06, 2006

Peri-Operative Nursing Incident

Spell-check is hit and miss on this site. Today it ain't working.

I'm going back in time for this entry to over two weeks ago following my Oct.19th surgery. I want to say that my most recent surgery on Nov.2nd was a relatively peaceful experience, filled with lovely nurses and staff who made me feel like a person, who made me feel cared for and who I was able to trust.

On Oct.19th, however, even though it was the same hospital, I had a bunch of snarky, bitter, angry nurses who I can only assume are counting down the days to retirement, because they obviously no longer love what they do and sadly probably have had too many years of feeling underappreciated, undervalued and stetched too thin.

Let me preface this by saying I fully realize this is possibly the least professional email I have ever written in my life. I don't even think I read it over as it was an utter chore to do, when I just wanted to let the incident go. This email is to the "Manager, Perioperative Care" at her request following a show-down I had (who me? can you believe it?) with one of her nurses immediately following my Oct. 19th surgery.

The manager was a lovely woman who completely understood my point of view (or so she made me think?) and was evidently highly adept at conflict resolution. This "letter" was a bullshit piece of red-tape that she required for her follow-up with the nurse, presumably to help assess if any disciplinary action was required. She needed something in my writing, even though we re-hashed the event through my tears while I lay in my hospital bved ad-nauseum.

She knows the story, I was post-op and couldn't write, type, think, or care less about re-visiting this incident so this is what I sent off for "the file". It may not make sense to anyone else but her and I, but I am posting it for myself, because it is what happened to me. It is a piece of my story and shows how frustrated I can get in my cancer journey when forced to deal with people who have no common sense or respect for basic human dignity.

"hi dori,

sorry i have not written to you about the bathroom fiasco. honestly, i have been in too much pain and also have no use of my right hand so it has been at the back of my mind. i just want to forget it. forgive me, but i will just quickly write out what happened in this email instead of a formal letter. you can print it.

i appreciate that the nurse came to apologize and i accepted it after it was modified. she was stuck on the "i thought you were dizzy" excuse and i "didn't hear you say you were ok the second time" which didn't explain why she proceeded to break in the bathroom while I was screaming "what the hell are you doing, and get out!". she only left when i yelled at her more and got off the toilet to motion her out. i said i'd keep the door unlocked after that if she stood right there (anyone could have come in) but after a few minutes (i still couldn't pee) i got up to check if she was there and she wasn't. when she walked by that's when i proceeded to yell at her in front of everyone saying she had no right to come in the bathroom when a patient says they are fine, that she had no respect for patient dignity, crossed the line, and was very rude. she denied all this which just infuriated me more. i went back in the bathroom and locked the door and cried because i always feel like a "bad patient" for standing up for myself.

my feeling is that if she absolutely thought there was something wrong (makes no sense why she would after i said twice thru the door i was fine), a respectful nurse who thinks of her patients as human beings derserving of respect and as much dignity as possible considering the setting, would explain thru the door why she was worried and felt she had to check on me, then open the door slightly to peep in. once she saw that i was sitting calmly on the toilet, she should promptly leave after apologizing for the intrusion. that i could have handled.

instead, this woman busted in with no warning, just saying, "I'm coming in!", as I yelled no! She walked right in and refused to leave until I actually had to yell at her and then get up off the toilet! Completely senseless. What, did she expect me to pee while she stood beside me? I had 100% come out of the anasthetic like I always do. Sure, it was right after I came out of recovery, but I was in recovery for 1/2 hour and sitting up, talking and asking for magazines within 10 minutes post-op. I walked to the bathroom myself and told her twice I was fine. She was WAY out of line and I've never been so shocked in my life-- her behaviour was so bizarre.

i immediately thought she was thinking i was shooting up heroin in the bathroom. i told her i was on methadone, asked to get my bag to change in to my pants before going to the bathroom. when i was in the bathroom for so long and couldn't pee (a side effect of methadone) i think she decided i had gotten my supplies out of my bag and was shooting up. many nurses have immediately thought i was a junkie when they heard i was on methadone. they never ask why or if they do they don't believe me because it is so rare. now i have a letter to carry around with me. my methadone is for severe cancer pain and is prescribed by dr. moulin. this is the only thing i can think of that would warrant such bizarre behaviour from a nurse.

her apology was weak at first because she stuck to the dizzy excuse which makes no sense as i've already explained. when i told her that i thought she had lost sight of the fact that her patients are people first who deserve to be treated how she would want to be treated, i think she better undertood my complaint and i acccepted her apology when she said she had learned a lesson and would never do that to anyone again.

thanks for your patience and understanding when we met Dori. i will be having more surgery this thurdsay and hope not to run into anything like this.


What can I say, I'm a hot head sometimes! I have zero tolerance for people disrespecting me but I don't always handle these situations myself in a dignified way. I'm a yeller, and a screamer, and if that doesn't work I become a cryer. Something to work on I guess. Excuse me while I bow my head in shame. I am almost 30, right? But, in my defense, that nurse was clearly on crack!


At 7:05 PM, Blogger Carver said...

Hey Sarah,

I'm glad you wrote about that incident. I'm sorry you had to go through it but I know for a fact that others have been through similar incidents and it helps to know that sometimes. My experiences in that vein so far have been as a caregiver who rode in on my charger to make sure a similar nurse didn't come near my father again. I was exactly your age when that happened. After decades of on an off again caregiver experiences, I saw excellent nurses and I've seen ones that I hoped were close to retirement. I am so glad you stuck up for yourself and am so sorry you went through that. So far as a patient I've been fortunate with considerate nurses but I've seen enough to know how terrible it is for someone who feels bad to have to deal with insensitive nurses or doctors. I think your email was very coherent and got right to the point. You don't have to be the professional one in a situation like this, that's the nurses job. As ever, Carver

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Heather said...

Sometimes you have to wonder what happens to people who choose a career that involves caring only to do it so profoundly inadequately.

I'll share my post-LND story another time...

Sarah, having just read your latest posts, (especially the Oprah one), you have to just picture me sitting here saying "Yeah! YEAH!" and pumping a mental fist into the air in support/understanding.

What can I say? I like your voice SO much.

You're so beautiful too, you do NOT look like you just had surgeries and all the melanoma crap. And (this might be the drugs, so bear with me), I think the brown cat looks just like you.

Hopefully one of these days we'll get to meet up locally and give mel the one-digit salute.



At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best letter ever! You totally make your point very clear. You will have to let me know what the response was. Your amazing for standing up for yourself and you should never feel bad, but rather very proud of yourself. Clearly that nurse is the biggest loser ever. Funny I never even considered the methodone/ herion addict scenerio which makes total sense. Interesting....

Anyway I think next time I am in London you will have to tell me who she is so I can go to the hospital and casually trip her. I know I"m evil.
Love ya

At 7:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your letter and i respect your opinion so much. It is nice to hear from a patient's view. I am a nurse myself and i believe that the nurse who took care of you is just concern about the tendency of you falling since you said you just came from recovery room. if a nurse know that anesth. is still in your system it is her resposibility per protocol to monitor you closely. The only thing a mistake she might have done is forgeting to knock before she came in. Even if you are in her shoes, who wants to smell a poop under your nose? Sometimes we also need to understand nurses who are overwork, no time for family spec. when work on the weekend and barely compensated. US has nursing shortage and we just hope that someday there are still nurses who are willing to serve. .


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