Are We Hearing the Questions that Patients and Their Families Don’t Ask?

“The spoken and unspoken messages we give patients and families are powerful.”

Viewpoint author Juanita Reigle

As a ‘frequent flyer’ of late, accompanying a family member on the long trek through cancer treatment, I’m acutely aware of the ways in which doctors and nurses communicate with us. Some have never mastered the art of interacting with people in stressful conditions. Others have remarkable radar and a special ability to “read between the lines,” identifying concerns that he and I haven’t yet voiced.

In ‘She’s Fine,’ the Viewpoint essay in AJN’s October issue, Juanita Reigle reflects upon how we respond to the questions patients and family members don’t raise. Some are left unasked because people are too overwhelmed to formulate a question. Some people aren’t ready to hear the answers. And sometimes, sadly, families sense that this doctor or nurse really doesn’t want to engage with them.

[…]

The Words We Use to Talk About the Act of Suicide

    marie + alistair knock/flickr creative commons

Suicide. A dear friend of mine died this way almost 40 years ago, leaving behind a beautiful six-month-old boy and a beloved and loving husband. I have never given any thought to the way we friends and family refer to her death. Then last week, I came across a 2015 blog post by the sister of a man who died in the same way.

In the post on a website that shares experiences of disability and mental illness, former hospice social worker Kyle Freeman argues that this term suggests criminality. She points to laws in the U.S. that, until a little more than 50 years ago, defined suicide as a criminal act. Kyle feels this history has perpetuated a sense of shame and embarrassment in survivors.

“…the residue of shame associated with the committal of a genuine crime remains attached to suicide. My brother did not commit a crime. He resorted to suicide, which he perceived, in his unwell mind, to be the only possible solution to his tremendous suffering.”

Kyle believes that the common use of the phrase “committed suicide” is not only inaccurate but can add to the suffering of those who have lost friends or family in this way. She prefers the term dying by suicide. […]

Please Nurse: Needing to Feel Human Again in the ICU  

Ruby Vogel circa 1970. Courtesy of Shannon Perry.

The patient perspective below was written by Ruby Vogel in 1976, shortly after she was discharged from the hospital following a cholecystectomy and colon surgery. Her daughter Shannon Perry, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor emerita at San Francisco State University, recently received the document from her sister, also a nurse and former nursing educator, to whom their mother had originally given it.

According to Perry’s sister, who found the document while cleaning out some files, Vogel had thought her daughter could use the information to help her students understand the experiences of patients in the ICU. Some things were different back then—for example, says Perry, a cholecystectomy and colon surgery were major surgeries with several days in the hospital for recovery. But some things stay the same, and this vivid account highlights how patient-centered care—a touch, a hand on the brow—can make the difference. Ruby Vogel died in 1985.

Intensive care put me in a different world—of noises, silly ideas, and feelings. I seemed apart from people. They came and went but I wasn’t people, just that big sore place. I could hear and I could see. People didn’t seem to speak to me nor stay around long enough for my eyes to focus or my lips to form words. In and out. Checking! Checking! Checking! I could see and hear. Family, nurses came in, took a look and left. I was still there.

That awful machine next […]

2017-09-11T10:45:55+00:00 September 11th, 2017|patient experience, Patients|0 Comments

Exploring Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Illustration by Sara Jarret.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of those conditions that is maddening for patients and clinicians alike. Its pathophysiology is unclear, the symptom picture varies widely from patient to patient, there is no test to confirm the diagnosis, and treatment is directed at managing symptoms because there is no cure.

To make things even more difficult for the person with IBS, there is a recognized psychological component of the disease. Therefore some friends, family members, and clinicians might tell people with IBS that their suffering is “all in their head.” And yet there is demonstrable proof (via neuroimaging studies) of differences in central processing mechanisms related to the “brain–gut axis” between people who have IBS and those who do not.

Kristen Ronn Weaver and colleagues explore these and other aspects of IBS in a clinical feature article in AJN’s June issue. The authors review the latest findings related to IBS etiology and pathophysiology, the relationship between IBS symptoms and stress, and the updated Rome IV criteria that help guide diagnosis. Of particular interest is the authors’ presentation of research confirming the value of several nonpharmacologic interventions, including dietary modifications, probiotics, moderately increased physical activity, yoga, and traditional Chinese medicine.

See “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” in the June issue to learn more, and to find out how nurse-led initiatives can lead to long-term health benefits for people with IBS.

 

2017-06-26T09:07:44+00:00 June 26th, 2017|Nursing, patient experience|0 Comments

Those Who Comfort Us

There was only a tiny drop of blood. I was worried, of course, but I went to my OB-GYN for reassurance more than anything else. Maybe she would tell me I was doing too much and needed to rest. Maybe it was just normal. But as soon as she looked at the ultrasound screen, I knew.

Usually when I went for a scan, she immediately turned the screen toward me. Until now, every scan had been great. I had just entered my second trimester. The barrage of tests given to women of “advanced maternal age” had all come back normal. The baby’s heartbeat was strong at every visit, and I was riddled with nausea, something I’d been told was a “good sign.”

This time she stared at the screen for what seemed like forever. Then, quietly, she told me that my baby of 16 weeks’ gestation no longer had a heartbeat. Moments later, the high-risk doctor came in to confirm this. I turned away as he talked to my doctor about the “degradation” he could see, suggesting the death had happened over a week before. Somehow this terrible word—and image—is what stuck with me, even weeks after the event.

Later I entered the ambulatory center where I would have a […]