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When nurses need to give a “straight” answer

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How long am I going to be here? How long does the surgery take? How long do I have to take this medication? How long do I have to wear this thing?

I often get these type of questions asked quite a bit from patients and their families. I get questions asking for ‘time frame’ specifics regarding any and everything about their care. Unfortunately, there really is no recipe for success in health care is there?

If I can, I always answer these questions with a bit of humor. A quick witted, “whenever the doctor says so”, seems to bring a smile to most faces. Yes, it may very well be a sarcastic smile, but a smile nonetheless.

(Oh, c’mon you know you’ve used that one before)

Isn’t it ironic that we constantly require our patients to adhere to a time schedule, yet we never can give them a straight answer about ‘how long’.

After my quick rebuttal to most of these questions, I give the long drawn out speech about how there is no recipe for success in healthcare. A + B does not always equal C. While we always have the best intentions, time is not something we can ‘predict’. Not even in the most ideal conditions.

The ‘real’ answers:

A perfectly performed surgery without any complications can still have scheduling delays. There are always emergent cases that take priority in the echelon of care. You can’t preventing the unforeseen.

Being in the hospital can be as short as 1 day and as long as 3 months (or more). There are a myriad of factors that determine whether or not the issues that brought you into the hospital can be resolved. Most of which we have no control over.

Some medication can be a lifelong venture, some can be taken for a specific time frame, while others are taken until your supply runs out.

What you are required to ‘wear’ is serving a purpose to help aid in the healing process or to probably prevent further damage. So it will be worn until it is no longer needed.

Oh, and don’t think for one second that just because you have a friend or family member that was treated for the same thing means that you’ll get the same treatment in the same frame of time. Uh-uh. No-siree-bob.

I wish I could make up a recipe book, I really do. It might make our jobs a lil easier, and I’ll bet the patients would love it!

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