Monday, December 05, 2005

Do You Hear What I Hear?

What is the $64 Question?

Who is the poor woman that gave birth to twins who were obviously born 6-months-old?

Who is that psychotic-looking guy? If he's the father of the twins, someone better call child protective services. If he's not, someone better call security.

Is that why the nurse is giving that "get-me-out-of-here" look to her co-workers across the room?

I don't want to know the two perfect answers.

I do want to know what this has got to do with pens!


Little pitchers have big ears.

So do family members.

If the ear size of the average family member of an ER patient were proportionate to their ability to hear every little iota of conversation in the department, they would have appendages the size of Dumbo.

Trouble is, they don't always hear what is actually said. For example:

Doctor says: this patient suffered a head injury secondary to a mechanical fall. He is drunk.
Family hears: He's a drunk.

We can't help if a family misinterprets what they hear, but we can try to make sure they don't hear what they can misinterpret.

Sometimes it's pretty obvious that they have overheard exactly what was said.

I have occasionally cringed over the years as I have received report at the nurse's station. Obese patients described as 'big, fat mama". Overly dramatic presentations described as "up for an Academy Award". Elderly females as "little old lady". Patients with migraines noted to be "full of bulls***". Adjectives like manipulative, stupid, obnoxious, ridiculous....all at the nurse's station, sometimes only a few feet away from the patient. At normal conversation levels.

Sure, we may use sick humor or sarcastic comments when talking amongst ourselves, but we sometimes forget we don't speak in a vacuum.

Remember "Get Smart"? We talk about patients as if we think a Plexiglas "Cone of Silence" drops over the station as we speak.

If only it did.

It isn't just derogatory remarks about the patients that the family hears. They listen to how we treat each other.

I recently took care of a patient in a room so close to the nurse's station that I could have carried on a full conversation with the patient, from the station, in a whisper. This patient was rather difficult and had a family who was, well, of the high maintainence variety. The doctor's desk is about 10 feet outside the door of that room and I knew the family was listening to every word I said because they would go totally silent when they heard me. I approached the doc to pass along a patient request. As is my custom, when in the presence (or hearing) of patients I refer to the ER doctor by the title "Doctor", as in "Dr. Smith".

Call me old-fashioned.

In this case, the name could easily have been Dr. Thomas Twit, because the first thing he did was snap at me for not using his first name. And I do mean snap. Loudly. The family heard every word (and will probably forever refer to this man as "Tommie").

I eventually informed this scion of professionalism that snapping at a nurse, especially one old enough to be his....well, much older sister demonstrated a lack of professional respect, especially within the hearing of a patient and family.

We need to help each other. If I'm talking too loud or begin to speak inappropriately I expect my co-workers to let me know. If my colleagues are doing the same, I will let them know it.

Being sick in an ER is bad enough without hearing yourself or a loved one spoken of in a derogatory fashion.

Oh, and if any of you are too young to remember "Get Smart".....please don't tell me, I'll just get depressed.

Thank you.


At 12/06/2005 06:10:00 AM, Blogger Moof said...

I'm afraid that I remember "Get Smart" ... quite well! *LOL*

That entry sounds as if you're working in a fish bowl. Ever consider writing notes and/or using hand signals?

Seriously though, one of those nice "sound dampening fields" I once saw on sci-fi would be even better. Imagine! step into the station, and you could scream until ...

... you felt better? >;-)


At 1/10/2006 02:40:00 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

Good blog. I wish there were more nurses and doctors like you. You're, unfortunately, a rare breed of bird these days, so on behalf of all your patients, thank you. :)

You know, it's bad enough hearing negative comments in person. I wouldn't want to hear what they say out of my earshot. Yikes.


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