Dangerous Exposure at Work for Healthcare Providers

As a nurse I have done all I can to protect myself from hazards at work.  By vaccination, personal protective gear and extreme hand washing I feel I’m in a safe little cocoon.  Little did I know I could expect my personal safety to be at risk!

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that healthcare workers are at a markedly increased risk for WORKPLACE VIOLENCE.  From 2002 to 2013 violent incidents (those serious enough to require days off to recuperate) were “four times more common in healthcare than in private industry” (Caring for Caregivers, OSHA website).

The majority of the incidents (80%) were from patients!  The people we come to work every day to care for and for whom our job is to make more comfortable and healthy.  Please keep in mind that theses are incidents that were serious enough to 1. be reported and 2. require days off be taken afterwards.

So if you are reading this, thank a healthcare provider in your life.  If there’s not one in your life, find one and thank him/her for risking their personal safety to help others feel better!

How to be a perfect patient.

When you are a patient it can be stressful and overwhelming.  You need to communicate all of your woes and symptoms but let me give you a few hints on being our favorite patient.

  1. Answer our yes or no questions with YES or NO please.
  2. please keep your list of woes to 3 or less, we cannot solve all your problems in 15 minutes.
  3. When I ask you to take a DEEP breath open your freakin’ mouth and TAKE A DEEP BREATH.  Little tiny nasal inhales are impossible to hear.
  4. Know you medications or bring a list.  The “little green pill” could be anything.
  5. When I ask if you’ve had surgery I mean all of them no matter when.  Just because it was 20 years ago doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
  6. And finally, please don’t argue with me that you need x or y medication because Google or Dr. Oz said so…….

Resistance is not futile 

Antibiotic resistance is real. Drugs that were once our ” go to ” for community acquired pneumonia or bacterial respiratory infections are not even on current algorithms. We are having to return to older antibiotics with more side effects to eradicate bacterial infections.

Scary fact number two is that the drug pipeline for antibiotics is sparse if at all. What does it all mean? I’m afraid to connect those dots….

The other side of the pillow 

I’ve been providing healthcare in some form since I was a teen. This year it was my turn to be cared for. What I learned is that hardly anyone listens to the patient.  It was a very frustrating. There was one sweet angel of a nurse that listened AND actually heard what the patient was trying to communicate and acted to improve the situation. One shift out of 5 is not acceptable to me. I was able to speak with a supervisor who was making rounds. She was very professional and employed active listening but nothing changed in my care after our conversation. 

So, how do I make this a learning experience? The quick and dirty lesson is the oldest and most basic. COMMUNICATE! Even if you cannot do a thing about the predicament BE HONEST.  If you’re unable to do a darn thing to help me; tell me! At least I’m not waiting for an answer / outcome that’s never coming. 

The Doctor (or Nurse Practitioner) is in (actually online)!

There is an exciting growing trend in healthcare that is economical and convenient for the provider and patient.  I am referring to online healthcare visits.  There are many choices but I am most familiar with the Maven app (https://www.mavenclinic.com).  Please download it and explore.

You can have a confidential quick sick visit, or have a long term medication refilled to name a few options.  You will speak with a licensed provider as if you were in their office but you are in the comfort of your own home. Maven not only has nurse practitioners and physicians but psychotherapists, nutritionists, and physical therapists to name a few.  The fees are reasonable and you can even make an anonymous appointment if you prefer.  Of course not everything can be done online there is still a need for hands on care but the virtual options are great for unburdening the overtaxed healthcare system.

Toxic people

Do you have that one friend, or that relative that does nothing but create chaos in your life?  If you do then you know how disruptive and hurtful they can be. It puts everyone involved in a bad position. Do you choose sides or remain neutral? To the “offended ” person there may not feel like neutrality is possible. If you associate with the one with a grudge you have actually chosen a side. 

Now the one who has been shunned by the toxic person is utterly alone because others choose not to choose which in reality is a choice. 

Invisible disabilities 

A whole army of suffering patients that often go under treated. The Invisible Disabilities Association [https://invisibledisabilities.org] defines an invisible disability as follows:

“symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments.  These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.”

Patients who suffer with these impairments often hear the cringeworthy statement “but you look good” which can add to the anxiety or depression because others offer no empathy or understanding.  An individual with a visible challenge  may be offered special accommodation by employers where a sufferer of an invisible disability will be judged as lazy or a whiner

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Imagine telling a paralyzed individual to stop being lazy and get up and walk!!  This is essentially what some who suffer with invisible disabilities are subjected to when their limitations are considered fake or “all in their head”.  So before we judge try to imagine what life is like for those whose suffering is called into question on a daily basis.  Statements like “your pain is way out of proportion for your injury” or ” you shouldn’t be having those symptoms” are not useful & do not contribute to a trusting relationship between patient and provider.  The patient is thinking “then please tell my body that”!!!  Treating patients this way is  not compassionate and shouldn’t be used by empathetic providers.