A friend recently had to have an ultrasound to further examine something found on another test. She’s a nurse, so she knows the drill, but she was shocked at how things transpired during that visit. As she described to me each step and interaction with the radiology physician, I cringed. The way she was “greeted” – or barked at you might say, to the communication during the test (there was none), to the instructions for further follow up, which left more questions than answers. Would this physician have acted this way if it was her sister or her mother having the test?
Her experience brought me back to a trip to the radiology department with my then 7-year-old son who had fallen at the playground and needed an x-ray to determine is he had a broken arm. Again, I am a nurse, I know the drill. But my son was quite terrified of this giant machine in a dark, strange room. The nurse got him and I in position with her only words being – now don’t move. I stood in shock as she left the room. I quickly explained that the machine was like a camera, it may move around to take the picture, but it won’t touch you or hurt you. His face instantly relaxed. I had tears in my eyes. Why didn’t this nurse treat my son like her own?
Now, trust me, I worked many years as an inpatient nurse. I encountered many personalities over the years and I am sure had my share of bad days. But one thing I can’t get past – ignoring or overlooking someone’s fears or concerns because you do this every day, is inexcusable. If every healthcare professional treated every patient as if they were their beloved family member, these stories would happen much less frequently. I get that not everyone is a “people person” – if you are not, do us all a favor and find another career path. Medicine is the business of the health of people. And yes folks, there is a real live person there who – no matter their education, cultural or socioeconomic background – has fears and concerns and deserves our full attention.
If you are a healthcare provider, I challenge you to see your loved one in every patient and treat them as you would want to be treated. If you are a patient and find yourself on the receiving end of less than stellar treatment, let them know your needs, advocate for yourself, don’t be afraid to ask your questions and get the answers you need.
Carolyn Vachani is an oncology advanced practice nurse and the Managing Editor at OncoLink. She has worked in many areas of oncology including BMT, clinical research, radiation therapy and staff development. She serves as the project leader in the development and maintenance of the OncoLife Survivorship Care Plan and has a strong interest in oncology survivorship care. She enjoys discussing just about any cancer topic, as well as gardening, cooking and, of course, her sons.