Not her comfort in my abilities, her comfort in feeling vulnerable. She was not comfortable sharing or exposing her personal challenges with me. I won’t expand on those topics, but lets just say she was more comfortable having a fellow female handle her challenges.
It wasn’t the charge nurse that told me. It wasn’t the nursing supervisor that told me. It was the patient who told me. When I introduced myself, and informed her I would be taking care of her, she politely asked if she could have a woman instead of a man as her nurse.
She wasn’t rude. She wasn’t offensive. She was honest.
I walked out of the room feeling dejected and honestly quite pissed off? I relayed this to my charge nurse who simply asked me one question. “How would you feel if the roles were reversed? How would you feel having a female nurse care for you with those type of challenges”?
It was like a slap in the face.
I realized at that moment how selfish I was being, and that I wasn’t doing a very good job at being her advocate. I was too busy thinking about myself.
I walked back into the room and kindly explained that she would have a new nurse assigned to her care for the evening per her request. I bashfully walked out of the room and my attitude toward my patients was forever changed.
Sure there have been instances since then that have been offensive, degrading and down right ignorant. Some of these patients changed their mind and accepted me as their nurse, while others have not.
When I encounter this type of challenge in my practice, ever since that day, I have always asked myself how would I feel? If the opportunity presents itself, I always try to ask and investigate the details of their ‘refusal’. I find it a chance to educate them on how male and female nurses have no differences when providing the care they need. I try to understand their comfort level and do my best to lessen or even eliminate their anxiety. What I don’t ever try to do is influence or convince them that they are wrong.
It’s their care, not mine. It’s their choice, not mine. I’m just glad they felt comfortable enough to be honest about their feelings instead of being uncomfortable or even afraid of the nursing care they would receive.
In the end, we are their advocate. Even if that means stepping aside.