I don't really like calling them "bad" patients, but there can be some very challenging patients who can really keep us on our toes and even make us question why we chose nursing as a profession.
When the same patient is ringing their call bell 3 times an hour, for your entire shift, it can make for one of the longest shifts in your career.
I remember one patient (not so fondly), that was ringing his call bell about three times an hour, for everything from fluffing his pillow, helping him to the bathroom and "I just wanted to see how fast you'd come". By the end of that night I was ready to choke him and I was so incredibly exhausted that I could barely stay awake on my drive home.
When I gave report to the nurse who relieved me from this terror, she saw the frazzled look on my face and she asked if he was a "bad" patient?
Every nurse knows this type of patient. The patient that wants their bed linens changed for absolutely no reason. The patient who is mean, demeaning and condescending. Maybe, he just wants attention, you think to yourself and for a while that helps you deal with the constant interruptions of your work by another call bell distraction, for a pitcher of ice. It always seems to be the ones that demand so much from us, that really need very little.
You can't help but think "this is not why I went to nursing school". How can you possibly think positively about these type of patients? Well, over the years I've learned that no matter how unpleasant or negative a situation is, there is always something that can be learned from it. Something positive you can take away from everything.
The reality is that nurses have the opportunity to make a difference. It's important to be humble to these patients. Realize that some day, this will be your mother or father, or even you. It's difficult to imagine this as reality, but let's face it, we don't live forever and one day every one of us will be vulnerable. We will need assistance with the tiniest tasks and there's a fair chance that we will become this "bad" patient. While we may feel that a patient is just being a "pain", asking us to come in for the tenth time and help them to the bedside commode. But who are we to judge these people? For all we know this patient could be so afraid of what's happening to them, so confused, and so alone. We only see the thin trembling hands and unsteady gait. We don't see the person this patient used to be. The professional, educated, independent, successful person this patient once was isn't evident to us now.
Remember this, when you care for your patients. The smallest of tasks can make such a huge difference to them. Stay humble and realize that they need us for everything we do, not just the clinical things. That's what makes nursing so special and so different from other professions. We truly get to make a difference in people's lives and we have the ability to make a patient feel un-afraid and comfortable. They trust us. They don't understand that we may have ten other assignments.
Embrace your ability to accomplish these victories and the next time your scrub shirt looks like a wet wash cloth, from sweating profusely, caring for a "bad" patient. Remember these are true moments of sincere, humble humanity. Appreciate them and realize that one day, this may be you and your hope would be to have a caring, loving, attentive nurse like yourself!
What have you learned from your "bad" patients? Comment below