The Vomit Story
Does seeing someone throw up bother you? Does it make you want to throw up too?
Apparently, it doesn't bother me.
I once caught my friend's projectile vomit in a Safeway bag, and one of our dinner guests once hurled all over the bathroom door outside before plastering the floor inside. (No, the food wasn't THAT bad! She just had the flu and someone happened to be in the bathroom when she got the urge to purge.)
And this week, one of my patients was very sick. She threw up all morning and the urge to retch and vomit did not go away. I stood by calmly and handed her tissues to wipe her mouth. Then I dumped out her container of vomit and replaced it with a clean container. I even poured her cold glasses of water so she could rinse out her mouth.
I have to admit, I surprised myself. I honestly expected to feel grossed out and unable to assist. However, when I see someone in need like that, I go into auto-pilot and the desire to be supportive and kind takes over. I pat her hand, smile at her, and tell her soothing things. I listen to what she's saying, and I try to say encouraging things back. I don't want to embarrass her and I don't want to be in her way, but I do what I can to be there for her so that she doesn't feel alone and scared.
I watch as her family watches anxiously as I monitor the patient's vital signs, and I can see how it scares them. I think that they fear that their family member will die right then and there in front of their eyes. Luckily, that did not happen.
Evil Health Care Workers
Most of the health care workers are very good at their jobs and they are kind and caring too. However, one lady - I'm not sure if she's a nurse or not - was very offensive to me. She came to take a blood sample from the sick patient, took one look at her retching into a container and said, "I hate it when people throw up!" Then she walked out.
When she came back, she looked very grossed out and she said to the patient, "Are you done throwing up yet?" The patient looked back with wide eyes and shook her head. She had been throwing up all morning, it was unreasonable, really, to expect her to suddenly stop. "When you throw up, I feel like throwing up!" The health care worker said. Well, I understood this idea, but it wasn't a very thoughtful thing to say. "Can you hold it in for a little bit?" The patient continued to look terrified while still clutching tightly to her container.
Finally, the health care worker decided to just get the job done. The poor patient looked miserable.
You Have Rights
Something I should mention now for anyone that is reading this is that all patients have the right to refuse treatment, medication, or care. If you ever go to the doctor or hospital and they want to do something to you that you don't want to have done. You can say no. As long as you are alert and aware of what is going on, and you have the ability to sign a paper that says you refused treatment or care, you can walk out and feel in control of your life.
I'm not saying that you should refuse care if you need it and if it's for your own good. I'm just saying that you have rights as a patient. I think that many patients don't realize that they can say no.
In the hospital, if I want to feed you food and you don't want to eat, I can't force-feed you. If I want to give you medicine, and you say no, I can't force you to take it. It's your right to say no.
Patients are Paying Customers
Also, the health care industry is a service to you. You're our clients and customers. If you're not happy with the service you're getting at the hospital, get your family to write a letter to the hospital to complain. You or your tax dollars are paying for care and you should be happy with the quality of service provided to you.
Anyways, I just wanted to say this because many of the patients complain about the quality of care that they are getting, but they don't realize that they can do something about it. They start to believe that they have lost control over their own life and health, but that is not the case. I think that knowing you have some control over your situation helps you to overcome it and to feel better.
Thoughts as a Nursing Student
So week 6 was a good one with lots of opportunities to help patients and to feel useful. It seems like a dream to me because it's so different from being an animator. When I woke up this morning, I expected to be an animator again, but there were drug guides on my desk, and binders were open to diagrams of the nervous system.
In some ways, I feel lost. This career change seems to be an on-going struggle for me. While I am thankful for finally finding meaning in life, some of what goes on in the hospital is so significant that I feel exhausted when I get home. You can compare it to be being a super-hero with a secret identity. For me, I'm a nurse by day, and an artist by night.
I definitely have more respect for what nurses do now.
Have a great week, and try not to barf :P