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How do I deal with being star-struck with a VIP?

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It has happened to every nurse. You hear a rumor that quickly becomes the truth that so-and-so professional athlete is being transferred to your floor. Or the CEO of the hospital comes to tell you personally that the patient you are about to receive donated $5.6 million to build the very wing you are standing on. How do you react?

Bottom line, you treat that patient like any other patient. Sure, there will be circumstances outside of your control that will be different, such as incredible repercussions for violating HIPAA—in other words, no speaking of the hockey player with gallbladder disease by first name in the crowded elevator. Also, there may be an alias name on the door and chart for privacy’s sake, or visitors of the “higher-up” may crowd to see your patient. But when it boils down to it, the bedside care you provide your patient should be no different whether it’s Michelle Obama or the homeless guy who caught pneumonia or the criminal who was all over the news.

People in the hospital are oftentimes very vulnerable, and the last thing a patient needs is to be gawked at by the very person who’s seeing them at their worst: the nurse. Nurses should be fair caregivers no matter what the scenario may be. You can even add some humor to the situation by asking your Olympic champion patient what he does for a living. If it gets to a point where you find yourself treating the VIPs differently from your other patients because you’ve seen them on the big screen, you should consider leaving nursing and taking up a career in public relations.

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Nicole Lehr

Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.

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3 Responses to How do I deal with being star-struck with a VIP?

  1. peggy2624

    Well, since we shouldn’t be discussing ANY patient in the elevator (or any place else for that matter, it’s a moot point).
    As new nurse I was dealing with a prisoner who I inadvertently discovered was a child molester. I found my empathy compromised so I decided then and there to never look at personal information in the pt chart other than to determine religion if they’d had a miscarriage in case she might want a blessing on the remains. All other patients were addressed formally as Mr or Ms and cared for as needed with empathy and kindness (albeit at arms length from the prisoners). Others of “note” are just scared humans under the façade of money and or fame. We just have to remember that we’re nurses first.
    Actually, someone once told me to treat sick kids like adults and sick adults like kids…that frequently works well too!

  2. nursewalt LPN

    The “vip’s” have all been good patients, and seemed to make an effort to “lay low”. They had a lot of visitors, of course, so at times the visitors were the problem not the patient. Recently I had a patient that did not tell anybody that he has had several movie roles! I recognized him from one of the movies. It was our secret and we had many conversations about great movies and people he has worked with.

  3. dkellyrn

    A loooong time ago, I found myself taking care of a man who had run for President and was philosophically and morally standing for so much I could not stomach – I dreaded going into the room. (He had been shot previously, now confined to a wheelchair). This colorful character snuck out of the hospital at night with his wife. As they returned, I was grumbling about his attitude, his politics and my task of having to put him back in bed. Well, once in bed and comfortable, he patted the bed and asked me to “sit a spell & talk”. The next two hours were life altering for me – listening, HEARING, and eventually crying with this old gentleman from the South and from an era long past it’s prime taught me more about human nature than I could ever have imagined. All I can say is no matter who your stewardship is for at whatever time, expect the unexpected – open yourself up to be schooled!