The tough love of nursing

It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. Yes, I’m being both facetious and literal. Dirty as in messy: I won’t even elaborate on some of the ‘fluids’ and ‘spills’ we nurses have to clean up. Dirty as in being ‘firm’ or dare I say ‘mean’ is also in our repertoire. Sometimes in order to get our message heard and for our patients’ to simply ‘get it’ we have to start not taking “no” as an answer and become the closet drill instructor we know we all can be.

Recovery from an illness is tough, no doubt about that. It’s painful, stressful and exhausting. Your body is taxed beyond its measure and then in order for it to heal it has to work twice as hard. The hard part about recovering from any illness is understanding the concept of ownership.

Most patients expect the very best from us and our medical team. They expect the medical team to ‘fix’ them. No matter how small or great the ‘illness’ is, we are supposed to fix them and make them all better. Patch them up ‘as good as new’. Unfortunately there comes a point of (no return) critical mass when the recovery process can progress no further without the help and motivation of the patient themselves. We simply cannot do it for you.

We can’t deep breath and cough for you. We can’t get out of bed and ambulate for you. We can’t do your active and passive exercises for you. Put simply, we can’t be you.

Sooner or later the ball will be in the patient’s court. Sooner or later their recovery will either move forward or stand still based on their actions. When these actions are not being done, when the patient finds every excuse imaginable to not take ownership for their health while still in the hospital – that’s when the tough love of nursing shows up.

Yes, we will get mean. We will harp on you. We will annoy you to no end. We will check up on you repeatedly. We will ask you to go above and beyond what you think you can or cannot do. We do all of this to get you better. You may think we are torturing you. Heck, you might even think we have it out for you and we just don’t like you. The truth is it’s all for your benefit. You may not understand it, you may not see it or comprehend it at the time, but all our torturous ways are delivered with the hope of getting you better, getting you out of the hospital and getting you home.

Because in the end, isn’t that what we both want?

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8 Responses to The tough love of nursing

  1. I would like every patient to receive a copy of this upon admission

    I have has patients start off very annoyed with me and are thrilled to have had me after I’m sending them home days before they thought they would go.

    It is so rewarding to help someone regain their independence, and fortunately most patients realize it in the end and are very thankful

    And it’s one of the reasons I am nurse.

  2. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Nursebrittney Thank you for sharing! You couldn’t be more correct.

  3. Nicki

    Preach it brother! I’m a rehab nurse and I have this talk with patients daily. Yes, I’m hard on them. It’s because I truly care. It’s not unlike a parent/child relationship in a way. Like a mama bird pushing her chick out of the nest because she knows he can fly. :) Great article. One of the better ones I’ve read so far.

  4. KRIS

    Here.. Here!!!! You were expecting a fluttering vision in white with perfect makeup and hair and an unbelievable gentleness so great as to make the walls drip a delicious goo of butter and sugar and angels float down from heaven? Opps, someone better send out the memo.

  5. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Nicki Thanks for your comment! I think most nurses would agree with our thoughts.

  6. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @ Kris LOL – Thanks for the good laugh.

  7. Gwen

    I have been a nurse for 18 years, and it used to be an accepted practice to sometimes give that “hard nudge” but try it now, and you find yourself written up and explaining yourself to all the admins because of a patient complaint….please don’t tell me tha, ” It is how you say it….” with todays attitude that of the “client is always right” in medicine, it doesn’t matter how nicely you couch it. I would like to return to medicine 20 years ago, when the nurse told you you had to do it, you didn’t argue or report them!

  8. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @Gwen I would agree, you have to have a bit of tact in your approach. But, most patients will respond to the ‘pushing’, especially if you get the support of the physicians.