My Favourite Nurse

Last fall I had the opportunity to speak for Sun Country Health Region in Weyburn at their Patient Safety Conference. Before I spoke I was able to listen to the harrowing story of an electrocution survivor. There were multiple times through his presentation that he talked about his “favourite nurse”. I made a mental note of this repetition since, I too, had a favourite nurse. In fact, I was bold enough to ask the audience during my presentation, “Why did he have a favourite nurse?” Why did I? Why do we have a favourite doctor, teller, or salesperson?

It may be hard to pinpoint exactly how someone becomes a favourite, but most likely there was some part of an interaction with that person that you were able to sense that they genuinely cared for you, your opinion and the need you had.

During my brief stay in the hospital I was determined to treat every one of my healthcare professionals with courtesy and respect. This attitude existed because I had never before been in the hospital and because my mom was a healthcare worker. When my grandfather’s health was failing, I felt he was overly critical of the care he received. Specifically, I didn’t feel he was very nice to his nurses. During my hospital stay, my Mom was one of my visitors and she was concerned because I seemed to be worrying more about the staff than about the state of my pain. Granted that after I provided such a poor pain rating my stay in the hospital was a lot more intense than it needed to be. I’m not saying to ignore your state, but consider what it must be like to work in such a needy environment. As a healthcare professional it is never about you … perhaps we could extend that to say as a professional it isn’t about you. If you have a customer they need to be your focal point.

My guardian angel (favourite nurse) knew how to make me feel like his customer. Like I was the most important part of his day, like he really cared about my mental and physical state. We had some regular chatter and we had some focused customer interaction. He asked if he could wake me up if it was time to receive my medication. He explained that it was best if we kept ahead of the pain by being consistent with my pain meds. I thought that was a great idea because the minimization of pain was far more critical to me than the sleep I knew I was missing out on. I knew I could trust him and he further endeared himself by honouring that trust and waking me up. He came at the end of his shift and said goodbye and that he was glad he got a chance to help me out, but his night shifts were over and I’d likely be gone before he started days.

In contrast here’s the interaction with another one of my nurses … well, let’s say she wasn’t my favourite. I reminded her to wake me up at 2 am if I was sleeping when she came to give me my meds. She agreed. This was at the end of my second full day in the hospital with very little sleep the previous two nights (measured in minutes, not hours). It was 4:30 in the morning and I woke up in horrendous pain. I pushed the button for assistance as quick and as hard as I could. I missed my pain meds by two and a half hours. I said “You never woke me up, I needed my pain meds!” Her response, “When I came in you were sleeping and I didn’t want to bother your sleep.” Clearly she missed out on what was important to me. It took me that entire day to catch up on the pain.

When she came to check me the next day I told her my pain was too intense and I needed my meds increased, her response, “Are you expecting there to be no pain?” I was floored … my sunny disposition became dark and overcast. I wasn’t yelling, but my retort was “I’m not expecting no pain, but something less than a 9 or 10 would be nice!” She seemed to question the significance of my pain, somehow I felt betrayed. Oddly enough many times in life I’ve prided myself on having a high pain threshold, but this experience was a whole new level and I knew I needed help.

I continued to plead until finally my Doctor agreed to increase my dosage. Nearly six days after my injury I finally felt relief from my pain. I remember it well … It was like I just spent the previous 5 days in a room full of people yelling at the top of their lungs, then suddenly they all quit. There was just silence, peace. My guardian angel just came back on the day shift and he was the first one I talked to once I realized I had no pain. I remember asking, is this what it’s supposed to be like? So quiet, no pain? I was overjoyed! After a brief chat with my guardian angel I enjoyed the silence, closed my eyes then fell asleep for 3 hours (until my next dosage) ;). The next day I was discharged from the hospital.

What makes you a favourite? What do you have to offer your customer that makes you stand out from the crowd? What is your differentiator? Your competitive advantage? What is your customer expecting? Are you listening?

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