Nurses and Pharmacists: For Valentine’s Day All We Want Is Respect

I’ve written before that I am happily married to a pharmacist. Sometimes when we come home from work, we commiserate together in shorthand about our hospital shifts. When we are grumpy, we play “I work harder than you do,” in which we childishly throw out episodes from our day to prove who had a harder shift and should buy dinner. Usually I win, because as a nurse, I am the one working hands-on with patients. However, I concede that being responsible for every medication calculation, preparation, and drug interaction (and more) is a tough and stressful job. Safe medication administration is a foundation of patient care. I also acknowledge that nurses are occasionally a little difficult to work with (I  was actually once present for a code blue when a stool softener was ordered STAT).

Anyway, for David and all my pharmacist friends, this one’s for you. Special thanks to the friend who brought this video to my attention.

Late Entry: I did have the Pharmacy Respect video here earlier, but I have removed it. Unfortunately, I cannot unlink it from the YouTube playlist that I do not want to post to this site. So, watch the Pharmacy Respect video, click the link or go to YouTube and type Pharmacy Respect into the search bar. It will come right up. Sorry for the inconvenience, but it is a cute video.

The Woman from Human Resources is Right About This

An Unexpected Discovery photo: JParadisi 2009

     A friend of mine told me about his experience a few weeks ago at a dental appointment. He arrived on time for a scheduled cleaning with his hygienist. After waiting five minutes, the hygienist came to the door of the waiting room. My friend stood up to follow her, but the hygienist called the name of a woman sitting across the room instead. My friend sat back down. Puzzled, he assumed the hygienist would return for him shortly.  My friend works in health care. The doctor’s office he works for sometimes runs late, and patients wait. He figured it was Karma.  After staring mindlessly at the pages of a six month old tabloid magazine, he checked his cellphone for messages and noticed  half an hour had passed. He requested a day off from work for this weekday appointment. Anticipating it to last an hour he scheduled other appointments and mundane errands after the routine dental cleaning. He wasn’t going to finish his errands that day.     

     Finally, a dental technician called his name. Once he was in the exam chair, the technician told him the appointment changed. He was rescheduled for an exam with the dentist instead of the hygienist. The technician readied to take a full mouth of x-rays.  My friend asked about the cleaning  he  scheduled the appointment for, and the tech told him not to worry about it.  He told the tech that  he only had time for a teeth cleaning, and this was his priority for the appointment. Could he reschedule the exam with the dentist for a later date? Annoyance reverberated throughout the dental office like an earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale. Eventually his teeth were cleaned. The appointment lasted two hours. My friend left puzzled by the entire scenario. Weeks before this appointment, the office called him twice with reminders that he needed to call within 24 hours to avoid an office charge if he wasn’t there.  Why was his appointment changed without his permission, my friend asked?  Why wasn’t he at least informed a change was necessary with one of those phone calls?     

     There are lessons to extrapolate from my friend’s story into my nursing practice.  Occasionally my patients wait beyond their scheduled appointment times too.  Events occur or sometimes patients are late, causing unexpected delays. More intriguing is the chasm between the expectations of my friend and his dentist, leading to an unhappy encounter for each. I imagine that the dentist and my friend both felt disrespected.     

     How many times do patients say, “I didn’t realize this was going to take so long”? Immediately, we have different expectations for the appointment. I don’t remember any patient expecting a different treatment than the one I expected to administer though.     

     The story reminds me of how important communication is when managing expectations for both the patient and the care provider.  Unexpected changes without explanation during a medical (or dental) appointment are rarely appreciated.  The Human Resources woman is right about this:  managing expectations is an important factor in customer service and satisfaction.