Last week, my life was put on pause as my family and I stopped our lives for a moment as we learned that a loved one needed surgery.  It was a big procedure with life threatening implications, and my nurse hat reluctantly came off~

and was replaced by my nervous, impatient, pacing, reluctant caregiver self.

As some of you can probably attest, there isn’t much worse than knowing enough to be dangerous, and helpless to really do anything. I remembered stubbornly that I can’t fix everything, and sometimes, being supportive has to be enough.

The experience allowed me to see what we do every day from a caregiver’s perspective.  I am happy to report that the majority of the care my family member received was exemplary, with only one or two minor exceptions.  However, a friend who is also one of “us” recently related to me a very different perspective.  As we were comparing notes, we both identified areas we recognized as key customer service opportunities.

Communication.  Even though I knew the planned length of surgery, it would have been nice to get hourly updates, even if through a quick message.  I also worried much more significantly after the “planned time” expired. A simple quick call  provides much needed relief to worried families. Plan hourly and over time communication processes for your center.

Family Involvement helps everyone.  My friend had it much worse, in that her family member’s procedure was delayed, and no one was notified.  Three hours after what should have been a one hour surgery, she learned after significant worry and thinking the worst that her family member had not yet even gone back.  Her elderly family member was left in pre-op alone, and the family wasn’t informed or invited to sit with him.  I can only imagine the stress for the patient and family both. Let family stay at the patient’s side when interventions are done until they go back when reasonable.

Proactive schedule delay communication diffuses frustration.  If the room or surgeon is behind and new patients are checking in, inform the patient and family as they check in that there will be a delay.  If the procedure is elective and the delay significant, the patient can have the opportunity to re-schedule.

Patients and families are our customers.  I felt frustrated with a nurse who was providing  good technical care, but not much compassion.   She also would not let us be at the bedside hours after procedure, even after she treated pain.  I get that uncontrolled pain needs to be addressed without family, but he had been medicated and was coping.   Being abrupt only added to a stressful pain management situation.  I know he felt a bit better no longer being alone despite his pain.  Recognize when family can add value to recovery.

I am happy to have my nurse hat back on, and  grateful that we are no longer chair sleeping and cafeteria eating. I did not have space to tell you about all of the great care and compassion I witnessed that made me proud of my profession.

I know that the family member will see this blog post, so I hope he will share with the wonderful staff that went above and beyond to provide exemplary care that we are so grateful for all they do.  I am most grateful that he is on the mend thanks to that great care.


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