Nurses: stuck between patient’s needs and doctor’s demands.

i am sitting next to my husband’s hospital bed watching his nurse try to take care of him. He’s being treated for cancer with Brachytherapy and must in the hospital for two days. Since his arrival yesterday, his pain has been awful. The nurses desperately paged various doctors to authorize more medication, but they could only decrease the pain, not stop it. 

Today his day nurse has been doing the same thing. 

The Resident came and went. A Nurse Practitioner came and went. Promises were made. Meds were increased a little. The Pain Management Team was supposed to be here over an hour ago. The nurse keeps calling. And in between calls she takes care of him. I can see the frustration on her face. 

I don’t know who to yell at, so I keep asking the nurse when the doctor will come. “15 minutes,” she says. The doctor doesn’t come. She pages again. “15 minutes,” she tells me again. He doesn’t come. After an hour I stop asking. She’s as upset as I am.

Nursing must be one of the hardest jobs on the planet. They take care of frightened people in pain while dealing with frightened family members and disappearing doctors. They must answer questions they don’t have the answers to and handle angry outbursts when the doctor doesn’t show up. And if they make a mistake, they could create more suffering for their patients.

Nurses work in the mine field between the needs of their patients and the demands of the doctors.

Throw in hospital regulations and redundant paperwork and it’s a miracle your nurse doesn’t go crazy. Maybe she does, but it’s part of her training to hide it well.

Thank you nurses at UCSF Mission Bay. Thank you nurses everywhere.

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