Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Are you the "Family Nurse?"

If you are a nurse you know what I mean! It is a special joy to be of service to our family and friends when they are getting through an especially tough health crisis. My Dad had hip surgery last February and I loved getting to know some great hospital staff. I think they loved me too, and they used me for some leverage. "Yes, Mr. Cook you need to take a pain pill. Your daughter is coming in 30 minutes." Ha!

Some things I always recommend when asked:

1. Get an expandable file folder (I usually buy these myself for my friends, they're cheap). This is to put information from doctors, hospitals, insurance, equipment companies, etc. in the divided areas. The amount of information on paper multiplies and gets out of control FAST.

2. Tell them about the people that are caring for their loved ones. People like CNAs,nurses, therapists of all sorts. Try to help clarify their different roles. Ask them to get to know the nurses caring for their loved one by name. Give them some little cards and help them to write a short note of thanks to give to staff while their loved one is being cared for. Never hurts to let them know they are appreciated.

3. Tell the family never to enter the hospital, clinic, or join a meeting without paper and a pen. They will need it more times than you know. Doctors and others can quickly draw a picture to explain something. Pictures help bridge a big gap between medical terminology and plain 'ole language. So much else.

4. Care conferences/meetings can get very big very quickly. There are often a dozen people around the table. Counsel your friends to always start a meeting by asking for everyone to introduce themselves. Ask for their business cards, or ask them to sign in on a pad of paper with their title and contact information. This empowers the family to have the opportunity for consultation later.

5. If it is appropriate, offer to attend the meeting with the family. Smile big! Handshakes all around! Be supportive and explain your role to the staff. You are not there to supplant the family, but maybe take notes and look for areas that need explanation. If you know the family, you can see by their expression when they are getting lost in the terminology. We can help facilitate better understanding. But be nice!

I know there is more, maybe if you read this you can comment on other ways you have lent your nursing expertise to friends and family. It has been a special joy to bring comfort in this way.

At Cape Coral Hospital they have a special website where you send "web well-wishes" to a patient and give them a get-well greeting. The first day Dad was in the hospital I put that site up on my facebook page and so many people sent him love and good wishes. This was a great service since cards couldn't reach him fast enough by mail to get there while he was in the hospital. A nice lady visited with a big stack of paper with sweet messages and even cool color graphics on each page. The link to the service is here if you want to check it out: http://www.leememorial.org/cards/index.asp

You may find it tough to be the "family nurse" at times. To me it is a great joy to help people I love through a difficult time. Courage!

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