Although I don’t recommend having surgery if you don’t need it, personally living the entire surgical experience the way that our patients do each and every day really allows us to see the OR through the eyes of our patients. It's a nice reminder of what it’s like to be the one showing up early, on an empty stomach, uncertain about the hours that lay ahead, and then rolling back into the operating room, entrusting yourself completely into the care of another.
I was recently a patient myself. I was already familiar with the facility, and the staff was made up of people that I work with, yet I was still nervous. I haven’t had surgery in well over 10 years, but this experience provided me with the fresh perspective I needed to improve the care that I give to my own patients.
I made a mental note of 11 different things, and I want to share them with you today. Hopefully they'll be a good reminder to you as well as you're caring for your patients.
1. Patients don't sleep well the night before their surgery
Uncertainty, fear of the unknown, concern over potential pain control, or the fact that they watched their procedure on YouTube can all lead to nervousness or anxiety and have them feeling "on edge."
2. Going without food and drink is NO FUN
First case of the day, last case of the day, or anywhere in between, being hungry is unpleasant.
3. Hospital gowns...
Do I even need to elaborate? They fit no one and they provide ZERO warmth.
4. The gurneys are ridiculously uncomfortable
Position and re-position all you want, no one can get comfortable.
5. Sitting alone in preop before surgery is not ok
Covid rules are still in place, preventing many patients from benefitting from the support their family or care partner provides. Being alone in an unfamiliar place is hard on anyone, but especially on someone waiting to have surgery.
6. Warm blankets - they're a gift from Heaven
Go back to numbers 3 and 4... Lying on an uncomfortable gurney, basically naked, in an ill-fitting gown and scruffy socks doesn't calm anyone's nerves. And while a warm blanket doesn't calm the nerves completely, the warmth is comforting and the coverage is a boost to patient privacy.
7. Voices carry
Patients can hear everything, from your lunch plans with another staff member, to your complaints about the difficult patient in the next bay. Be mindful of where you choose to have your conversations.
8. Explanations help with giving medications
Sure, we all know what Celebrex is, but does your patient know what it's for? What about Zantac? We know what these medications are for and why we're giving them, but are we explaining all this to our patients in a way that they can understand?
9. No one is looking forward to the IV-insertion process
Doesn't matter how many times you explain it...
10. Patients are worried about things we've become desensitized to
Wetting the bed, passing gas, saying absurd things, being naked, how they'll be positioned for the surgery, or even whether or not they'll wake up from the surgery. Always listen to their concerns.
11. Patients are nervous
No matter how many times a patient may say that they’re not nervous, they are. There is always a layer of anxiety and worry below the surface, so be aware of it and tend to that as much as you can.
It wasn’t “fun” being the patient but my team took exceptional care of me. I was terrified I’d wake up nauseous and would be puking all over my coworkers. Thankfully it didn’t happen, but if it had, my nurses wouldn’t have minded one bit. Their patient care was top notch and I felt perfectly safe in their hands. I hope all of our patients can honestly say that about their experiences, too.