in your patient’s shoes

I realised, that kids these days are too fortunate.

I can count with one hand, the number of friends i have who have chronic, or even have had acute illnesses. The rest are lucky enough to be spared, and be instead given the common cold and flu, and all the minor ailments.

And it’s because these people are fortunate enough to be spared the trouble and pain, that they cannot even try to empathise with their patients.

Have you ever had an IV cannula inserted? Have you had normal saline running quickly into you? Have you ever felt the cold rush through your vein as they do that? Have you ever needed to pee frequently just because they were dumping fluids into your system? And being on fall precautions because of that, which makes it all worse? Have you ever had vesicant/irritating agents pushed into your veins? Have you ever felt the pain that one gets with phlebitic veins?

Have you ever been put on fall precautions? Did you ever have to rely on a pathetic call bell just to have your toileting needs attended to? Do you know how frustrating it is having to lie in bed all day?

Have you ever gotten poked and prodded at? (I know people who have gotten their blood taken no more than twice in their near 2 decades of life.) Have you ever needed to have blood taken frequently, and every month for the rest of your lives? Do you even know the color of the tubes, and the additives in it? And you complain about that little lancet that pricks your finger for tha drop of blood. Our diabetic patients get that 4x a day with each and every day that they spend in the hospital.

Have you ever gotten a suppository inserted? Have you ever felt how it feels like to want to shit after that? And you tell your patient “Wait ah, wait ah”? Wait your head. Your patient’s ass can’t wait.

Have you ever gotten adhesives taken off your skin(just like band-aids, ECG leads, Tegaderm etc)? Have you ever gotten them ripped out hard and fast? Because it damn well hurts, and you’re pulling the hair off as well! What! You want my skin too? Yes. We do have patients who have superficial wounds due to undue care when removing adhesives.

Have you ever got stitches, or stitches removed? Because it hurts, and don’t ever tell your patient that it doesn’t. Because it bloody well does!

Have you ever been in severe pain? Have you ever asked for analgesia? Have you ever tried describing your pain in plain numericals for the pain score? Have you ever had analgesia that didn’t work, and have the nurse asking you for your pain score after that, and be shot a look of doubt(do i look like i’m kidding you?) when your pain score didn’t improve? Have you ever been asked to move, or worse be forced to move, when you were in pain? Have you ever had to ask the nurse or the doctor for help with hooking your own bra and putting on your top, just because your joints hurt too much? It’s embarrassing you know.

Have you ever been told “This won’t hurt a bit”, or “This will hurt like an ant bite”, or worse of all, be met with total silence through procedures? And then getting the shock of your life because “Hey that sure as hell hurts you know!!!”?

Have you ever been told that you needed to take something, but you hate it because it tastes so foul, and then be told “It’s ok one lah. A little bit only. Nevermind one!”? Because it is damn bloody foul-tasting, don’t tell me it tastes like 7-Up, you moron.

Have you ever needed to take medications? I’m sure most have. Have you ever gotten told to comply to medications, like with antibiotics? Did you complete the course? I know i can’t. And if we can’t, how can we expect our patients to do the same? Have you ever been on long-term medications? Have you ever needed to take medications even if you felt well and fine? Have you ever worried about financing for your prescriptions? Have you ever worried about how the drugs harm you and what side effects they cause? Because many of our patients out there are in those situations, and you chide them for being non-adherent? Do you think any of patients chose to be sick? Do you think any of them chose not to be better by not adhering to medications? No! The answer is no!

I’ve had the opportunities. And there are still things that i’ve yet to try as a patient. Like getting a nasogastric tube or urinary catheter inserted, using a bedpan, getting sponged, getting CT/MRI scans(very unfortunately), being intubated(no interest in getting that), being on skin-leg traction, going for surgery, having chest tubes, getting a tap(abdominal tap, joint aspiration, -centesis etc), getting a bone marow aspiration or lumbar puncture done, and many many more.

There is a lot that we can do for our patients. And one of the easiest and most basic has got to be putting yourself in your patient’s shoes. Nothing beats empathy, along with respect, warmth, acceptance, a listening ear and a gentle smile. Every little action, every little gesture, every little word that you say/do makes a world of a difference.

I wish all healthcare workers could be put through these medical/nursing procedures, so that they can at least try to empathise with their patients.

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