When you’re in the hospital, it’s easy to forget that the people who take care of you do care. Nurses and doctors have dedicated their lives to helping people like you during moments of crisis, so they can often be quite busy. But they also want to connect with you as a person. You’re human beings, after all.
So the next time you are in a hospital, maybe you’ll want to take a second to let your nurse know how much they mean to you. Thank them for holding your hand through something challenging, or even ask them about their day. They might brighten up. Here is some insider info: what your nurse wants you to know.
Insider Info: What Your Nurse Wants You to Know
A nurse’s job is to make sure that their patient gets well and recovers fully from illness or injury. They might not always seem like it, but they do care about your recovery. Any time they push you to move faster, get better at doing physical therapy exercises, or stop fiddling with all the buttons on the remote control in your hospital bed, it means that they want what’s best for you.
A good nurse will never give up on a patient until he/she has been released, no matter how frustrating the situation may be to both parties involved. Below are some of my top tips for those of you who are finding yourself spending a lot more time in the hospital than you anticipated.
Don’t Walk Around Barefoot on the Floor
I’m only mentioning this because, well, it happens a lot. Yes, the floor is cleaned appropriately. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a great idea to walk around without shoes or let your infants crawl around on the floor. Many people are in and out of hospitals, and it’s where all the sick people congregate. So, wash your hands frequently, keep your shoes on, and leave kiddos at home (especially during the flu season).
Nurses are always trying to prevent their patients from catching a nasty infection, which is why they make such a big deal about this. When your nurses see you walk around the hospital’s floors without any shoes on, they cringe. That’s because the floor of the hospital can be pretty dirty.
It has hundreds of people walking around it every day. It also gets quite slippery when wet and hard to clean under those wheels of someone’s wheelchair. Help out everyone by keeping yourself covered in shoe gear at all times while inside the hospital for safety reasons.
Find Out When Shift Change Is and Don’t Call for Updates Then
Typically, shift change is from 7:00 am – 7:30 am. It’s a hectic time where the off-going nurse is sharing a lot of information in a short amount of time to the on-coming nurse, all while still caring for patients and answering call lights. Give the on-coming nurse time to meet your loved one and review their chart.
If you call at 7:25 am, they probably just learned their name less than 10 minutes ago and need some time to collect their thoughts, meet the patient, and provide you with a quality update. You can chat with the off-going nurse, but they’ve been on their feet for 13 hours and are itching to get home and rest.
They may have to be back at the bedside in less than 10 hours. About nurses’ shifts is that they have to work with other nurses that aren’t their own. If you’re trying to get a hold of your nurse at 3 in the morning, and she’s not on duty, then chances are another nurse will pick up your call.
It could easily mean an interruption to her sleep, as well as taking time away from her family. When shift change comes around, don’t be upset if you can never seem to get a hold of the person who is currently assigned to take care of you. She may love you dearly (and maybe even know everything about you, like your fav colour and the name of your pet), but chances are she’ll be quite occupied for a while.
The Nurses Don’t Know When the Doctor Will Be By
Many patients are surprised that their nurse won’t know when the doctor will be by then come. But, they’re thinking, “I’m a patient! Don’t I have priority over everything in this hospital?” We would love to think so. Here’s what we can tell you, though: You’re not the only one waiting to see a doctor.
In fact, chances are there is another patient who has been waiting even longer and needs regular attention from the doctors more than you do. It doesn’t mean that your situation isn’t critical, but let us seriously assure you that it’s guaranteed that your nurse is doing his/her best to make sure you get seen.
The biggest thing is patience in health care services; don’t panic and rush the staff to be seen as soon as possible, which will just add stress and anxiety for your nurse. If you’ve been waiting in this hospital a long time without progress, speak up with your nurse directly.
So many times, I have heard phrases like “Oh my goodness! They had me wait all day. I’m going home.” Please talk to us about it; we’re helping as fast as we can! You may not know that sometimes patients (and their loved ones) get upset if they don’t see a change in the status of their care during longer stays at the hospital.
We feel bad when our loved ones go home sicker than they came in because there was no way for us to tell them how much longer it would take for them to be seen. In fact, we may have even tried to tell you, but you aren’t the only person in your family who is sick and stressed out over what’s going on.
We’re sorry that delays in care cause such anxiety and frustration, but remember that it really just means a lot of people are sick, some with life-threatening illnesses. Talk with your nurse about your concerns – they can let you know why you’ve been waiting or if there is any way they can speed things up for you.
Know What Being a Full Code Really Means
It is vital to know the difference between a full code and a do not resuscitate (DNR) order. A full code means that if you heart stops beating and/or you stop breathing, you want the health care team to do everything in their power to get your heart pumping again or breathing again. The health care team will begin CPR, which looks a lot different than it does in the movies and on TV. It’s much more traumatic. Ribs are broken, a breathing tube is put down the throat, the patient is heavily medicated.
While most people will say yes, do everything you can if that were to happen, not everyone wants that. Some people are living with a terminal illness, some are of advanced age, or have a diagnosis like dementia.
Upon admission to the hospital, the physician who is admitting you should have this conversation with you to ask you if you want to be a “full code” or if you’d like a “do not resuscitate” (or DNR) order. This is done at admission with everyone because if that situation arises in which the patient begins to “code” (heart stops or stops breathing), we can’t have this conversation then.
A DNR communicates to the health care team whether or not to begin CPR *if* the patient begins to code. A DNR does not mean the patient will receive less medical care, fewer treatments or interventions, it simply means that *if* the patient’s heart stops or they stop breathing, that we are to let the patient pass naturally rather than put them through the trauma of CPR.
If you have more questions about this or aren’t sure what the answer is for you, talk about it with the physician who knows you best: your primary care physician.
Make Sure Next of Kin or Health Care of Power of Attorney Knows Your Wishes
I cannot tell you how many times a terrible, yet necessary, decision must be made and the next of kin can’t decide to let their loved one pass or not, or they haven’t spoken to them in years so they don’t now what they’d want… or there’s no health care power of attorney.
If all of a sudden you were unable to make your own decisions are incapacitated, who would make decisions for you? In most states, it would be your next of kin (spouse, family, children – it all depends on your unique circumstance). But, not everyone wants their next of kin to be this decision maker. An example would be a married couple who is separated but not legally divorce; they may not want one another to make those decisions but should a tragic accident occur or sudden medical condition, legally it would fall to that person because they are still their spouse.
There is something called a health care power of attorney. This is a person you designate when you are of sound mind that will make medical decisions for you. There are some legal documents you fill out and then you give a copy to your physician and the hospital.
This person can ONLY make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. They can’t call the hospital and make decisions on your behalf if you are of sound mind.
Whenever you select this person, make sure they know what you would want at end of life. If you were in a car accident today and the choice was either live in a nursing home for the rest of your days on a breathing tube with a feeding tube, or death – what would you want?
Select someone who knows your wishes, respects them, and will make the right call for you.
Put on Your Call Light and Ask to Go to the Bathroom Before It’s an Emergency, If You’re Able
Emergencies happen, people forget, or there is a crisis, and we can’t get to your room immediately to take you to the bathroom. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes. Please let us know when you have to go and early!
However, we know not everyone get adequate warning of when they have to go to the bathroom. Sometimes when the urge hits, people need to move! If this is you, just let your nurse and nursing assistant know. That’ll let us know that when you put on your call light, we need to high-tail it in there.
I’ve had many patients with irritable bowel syndrome or urinary urgency and frequency and they just let me know when I meet them in the morning and I just consider that throughout the day as I see call lights go off and I prioritize my tasks.
If you feel like you don’t see your nurse much, you may be their most stable patient
Emergencies and urgent situations happen a lot, and nurses can’t tell their patients about what’s going on with their other patients. Chances are, if you haven’t seen your nurse much, he or she may be tied up with another patient who is not doing well.
If you don’t know why you’re getting a certain medication, test, procedure, ask! And when you think of questions, write them down so you don’t forget. I love love love it when a family member has a list of questions ready for when the doctor rounds. The nurses do their best to answer your questions, but typically there are questions we can’t answer and the doctor needs to address that with you.
Also, try to write your questions down as you think of them and answers as you receive them. This makes it easier to put the pieces together. Most patients have a lot going on and it can be tough to understand. Keeping notes of what happens or changes can help you get your mind around things.
I’m such a big advocate for this that I wrote a book for patients and loved ones to understand the interworkings of hospitals and including some blank pages with leading questions in the back!
I’ll Always Say Your Test Results Aren’t Back, Even If They Are
It’s not within my scope of practice to interpret or tell you what they are, even if I know. If you just found out you had cancer or an aneurysm or a stroke, you would probably have many questions and your physician needs to answer them.
It’s hard to be on the receiving end of the test, knowing the nurse knows but won’t tell you – which is why many of us simply say the results are not back yet, even if they are.
If You Loved Me, It’s Definitely Okay to Bring Me Food
I’ve had multiple patients try to sneak me a monetary tip or a gift card. Alas, legally, we can only accept perishable gifts. Many families have bought pizza for the staff, or a coffee tote from a nearby Starbucks or Panera. Most nurses love coffee and tea but can’t get away from the unit long enough to grab some, so a 1-3 totes (depending on the size of the unit) is a wonderful surprise.
We are typically bombarded with sweet treats, so healthy snacks are a great gift too. Things like protein bars, granola bars, fruit, veggies, hummus, nuts, sparking water, are all great ideas to show your appreciation for your nursing staff.
More from the author
- US News World and Report – 14 Things You Didn’t Know About Nurses
- The TODAY Show – From stethoscopes to tears, 10 things your nurses wish you knew
- US News World and Report – What to expect when your loved one is in the ICU
- The Charlotte Observer – Charlotte nurse: what patients should know, but no one tells them
About the author
Kati Kleber, BSN RN CCRN-K has been a registered nurse since 2010 and has experience in both cardiac med-surg and neurocritical care. Kati is a podcast host, national speaker on nursing topics, and trusted source for various media outlets like US News and World Report, Dr. Oz, CNN, the TODAY show, and more.
Kati is a published author of five titles, including Admit One: What You Must Know When Going to the Hospital, But No One Actually Tells You, the first book published by the American Nurses Association specifically for patients.