13 Things Your Nurse Wishes You Knew

Ways to help your nurse provide the best care

Nurses provide health care for patients of all ages, from all walks of life, from the beginning of lifeto the end and everything in between, says Sharon Roth Maguire, chief clinical quality officer for BrightStar Care, a national franchise that provides experienced medical and other care to private clients in their homes. “Nurses are motivated by making a difference [for their] patients," Roth Maguire says. “You can help a nurse by being the kind of patient that asks great questions and shares important health details that may impact your care.” Here are 13 things patients should know to help nurses provide optimal care:

Nurses provide a wide range of services.

Registered nurses provide hospital care ranging from helping carry out lifesaving procedures to ensuring the patient’s comfort and dispensing advice about medications, says Pamela F. Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association. There are more than 100 nursing specialties, from neonatal to hospice care. Nurses typically work as part of a team with doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists and other professionals, and they coordinate services to ensure the care meets the patient’s and family’s needs.

You're in charge.

Never forget that you, the patient, are always in charge of your health care. Doctors may provide opinions and advice, but you make the final decision about your medical care, says Debra Moore, a registered nurse and director of nursing for the BrightStar Care home care agency in Edmond, Oklahoma. If, for example, you have prostate cancer, you can choose from an array of options, such as active surveillance, chemotherapy or drug therapy if it’s spread to your bones, according to the American Cancer Society.

Second opinions matter.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. They're routine, it's your right as a patient to get one and your doctor won’t be offended. A second opinion will make you a more educated health care consumer and could save your life, a Mayo Clinic study found. It could confirm the initial diagnosis and treatment plan, or it could, for example, lead to recommendations for treatment other than surgery.

Be your own advocate.

If you have a question about your prescribed medication or are unhappy with its side effects, keep taking it, but speak up to your doctor or nurse. Remember, sometimes it takes time to find the right medication or dosage. If medicine isn’t making you better, tell the members of your health care team, says registered nurse Stacey Gombar, who’s with MJHS Home Care, a home health care service in New York City.

Support comes in many forms.

Build and lean on a support network, which can include family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, faith leaders or people in your community, Gombar says. These people can help cheer you on if you’re in physical therapy, hold your hand when you’re reacting to a medication or even run errands if you’re too tired. Pets can provide emotional support, too; therapy animals, for example, are trained to provide comfort and affection.

Follow the rules.

Whether it’s taking prescription medications, abstaining from certain foods or getting enough exercise, following the directions of your doctor and nurse is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health, Moore says. If you don’t understand why your health care professionals want you to do something – or stop doing it – just ask.

Don't make assumptions.

Patients sometimes assume their nurse knows when they're scheduled to be discharged, for example, but that's not always the case. Nurses typically don't know when their patient is scheduled to be released until the order is written, and they're usually very busy taking care of other patients.

There are three smart questions to ask.

Asking questions can help your health care providers focus on what’s most important, says Joanne Miller, chief nursing officer at Sibley Memorial Hospital in the District of Columbia. She recommends asking these three questions: What is my main problem? What do I need to do now about it? And why is it important for me to do it?

Bring a relative or friend.

Medical appointments can be stressful, it might be hard to process and remember everything you’re told and patients often forget to ask important questions, Miller says. It’s helpful to bring a relative or trusted friend to listen to the information the doctor’s providing and help you remember to ask the right questions. You can compare notes to verify what you heard.

Don't rely on Google for medical advice.

It’s fine to use a search engine to find directions to your doctor’s office, but you shouldn’t rely on it for medical information, says Marlon Saria, an advanced practice nurse researcher at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Medical information you find on a Google search may not be accurate or relevant to you, and even if you find credible information, it may only tell you part of the story. Rely on your medical providers for information about your condition and treatment, Saria says.

Don't ask your doctor about parking validation.

You have limited time with your physicians and other medical providers, so don’t waste it by bringing up issues unrelated to your diagnosis and treatment, Saria says. Direct questions about parking, insurance and other nonclinical issues to administrative staff members.

Talk to your loved ones about this difficult subject.

Tell your loved ones what kind of medical care, including extreme measures such as the insertion of feeding or breathing tubes, you’d want if you become unable to make or communicate those decisions, advises Jane E. Smith, a clinical nurse specialist at Morristown Medical Center, Atlantic Health System in Morristown, New Jersey. “I had to do this in 2016 for a family member and it was so less stressful knowing my loved one’s wishes before needing to make decisions about her care,” Smith says. One option is filing an advance directive, in which the patient can describe what kinds of extreme medical measures he or she would opt for.

Know your medications.

Knowing the names, dosages and usage frequencies so you can tell your nurse is important, says Faina Vasserman, nurse manager at Menorah Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care in Brooklyn, New York. “We don’t ask you about your current and past medications mix [or regimen] to be nosy,” she says. “Promise! We need to know what medications you’re taking – including herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies – because we want to make sure one medication isn’t negatively interacting with another. We are concerned about side effects and reactions, including allergies. And of course we want to know whether the medication worked.”


Content shared from US World News Report

Ruben Castaneda, Staff Writer

Ruben Castaneda has worked at U.S. News since September 2016. 


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