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12 Ways Nurses can Make a Difference for a Patient with a Chronic Illness

Nurses make the medical world go around. It's no secret that a nurse can make all the difference not just during a medical visit, but also a medical procedure, scheduling an appointment, and handing you tissues as you receive a devastating diagnosis. A nurse not only needs to know all of the medical terms and procedures, but she must also be there emotionally for the patient because oftentimes her simple presence can determine how well we as the patient deal with that particular circumstance and mentally deal with the outcome.

chronic illness nurse For most of us with a chronic illness, it is not a challenge to remember a nurse who hardly acknowledged our presence, one who kept forgetting to bring our medication when we were in the hospital, or just the nurse who overly enjoys her role as the gatekeeper to the doctor.
But as a chronically ill patient we have a long list of encounters with nursing staff, so we must also fondly recall the nurses who made unquestionable improvements in our care by being our advocate when no one else would listen, or just by holding our hand while we received a underwent painful (and possibly lonely) procedure.

Recently, when I was checked into the hospital, the nurse from the wound care center had to push me in a wheelchair through an outside maze of a construction zone walkway. Ironically, she shared that she too had rheumatoid arthritis like myself. I felt like I made a new friend in those ten minutes and she made me much more comfortable in getting to my destination.

As the editor of HopeKeepers Magazine, I have tried to get a nurse to write an article explaining what a typical day is like at a doctor's office where she is employed. I know many minutes are filled with frantic scheduling issues, checking patients in, trying to please the physicians, all while doing more that can be expected in the time allotted.

I have not yet found a nurse who was willing to even be interviewed for such an article; more than a few have even exclaimed, "If anyone found out, I would lose my job!"

By understanding each others needs, however, we can only improve the long term relationship between the nurse and the patient. Sadly, many marriages don't last as long as the nurse/patient relationship!

Here are 12 ways to better understand the chronically ill patient.

[1] When you ask if I am taking any medications and I pull out two pieces of paper with everything listed, please don't look flabbergasted or as if I am a drug addict.

[2] When you take a moment to ask me about how I am doing emotionally, not just physically, I feel like you really do care. In some ways this makes me more comfortable and even forthcoming about the physical symptoms when the doctor asks me questions later.

[3] Thanks for celebrating little things with me, such as reaching a goal weight or decreasing a medication. I know you see these things every day, but to me they are a big deal. You are one of the few people who understand how hard it is for a chronically ill patient to reach these goals. Your enthusiasm makes me day!

[4] Practically, I realize that you are not able to keep up to date on every medication that is out there on the market, but when you have to ask me how to spell the name of my drug three times, which happens to have an ad in all the best-selling magazines, I question how often you get out of the office.

[5] By simply telling me, "I don't know how you cope so well. I really admire your attitude and how you deal with this dease," I can float around for days.

[6] I'm thankful for the times you ask "Can I pray for you?" Though some of your patients will say no, for many it will be the first time someone has ever cared enough to ask.

[7] There are times when I am have been having a medical procedure and my family is not able to be there. I know it's a minor procedure for you, but the fact that you understand it's a major procedure to me, and you stick around and hold my hand, is one of the nicest things anyone ever does for me.

[8] I am somewhat of a "professional patient." And that means I can come across a little bit like a control freak when it comes to monitoring my pain level and knowing when and how much medication I need to control it. That said, handing you the reins of dispersing all of my medication when I'm in the hospital is a challenge. The time of morning I take my drugs makes all the difference in my day. So I appreciate when you are able to get it to me as close to the right time as possible.

[9] I know that you are human and must have rough days too. It is okay to tell me, "Today has been a crazy day." You are certainly allowed to be moody, but let me know why in simple terms so I don't take it personally.

[10] I really do have a life, even if it's filled with medical visits, therapies, lab test, etc. I'm not trying to be difficult when you are scheduling appointments or trying to reach me. I just want my family to have as normal of life as possible despite my illness.

[11] When you go out of your way to do something like calling a prescription into the pharmacy so I don't have to wait when I get there, I realize that it is an extra step for you, and it doesn't go unnoticed. I appreciate it.

[12] When I am in the hospital your willingness to help with a shower, change the sheets, or just have a conversation to distract me from where I am, makes all the difference in my stay. I appreciate the fact that you treat me like a real person, and not just a project.

Living with a chronic illness is difficult. Choosing the career path of nursing is not easy either. When each remembers to pass along simple encouragement in the words of "thank you" or "I admire your strength," both the patient and the nurse can have a beneficial, and sometimes even a blessed, relationship.

by Lisa Copen

More Information:

Lisa Copen is the founder of Invisible Illness Awareness Week held each year in Sept and featuring a free 5-day virtual conference w/ 20 speakers. Follow Invisible Illness Week on Twitter for prizes and info. Blog about invisible illness on your site, be a featured guest blogger, meet others, read articles and lots more. Make a difference!



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