Modern Medicine, Sometimes Tart

Good Nurse, Bad Nurse

Dear Recovery Room Nurse:

Several weeks ago, you were assigned to care for me in the recovery room after my hysterectomy. And I just wanted to take the time to thank you for making me feel like a big bothersome pain in your behind. I think studies have shown how this attitude helps the post-surgical patient in the recovery room, which is to say, not at all.

You would think that under the influence of anesthesia and narcotics, that I might have been totally unaware of your attitude. Not so. I was painfully aware. And I haven’t forgotten either. I’m like that. I don’t forget — especially in cases where those who are charged with looking after the young, the weak, the powerless or the infirm fail so miserably.

As I struggled to regain consciousness, I tried to focus my fuzzy eyes. I looked over to see you sitting on a stool, restlessly flipping through some papers and obsessively checking your watch and sighing repeatedly and pointedly. It took all the strength I had to raise my head to see that no one else was around, that everyone else had gone home. And then I realized that I was probably keeping you. I know. It was Valentines Day and you probably had better things to do. I’m sorry. I hadn’t planned to allow my respiration to slow to six breaths per minute and delay you. I had planned to get back to my room in time for cocktails and crudités. Looks like I ruined everyone’s evening.

When I called to you that I was in extreme pain, you didn’t even bother to look up. “Well, you just had surgery,” you snapped. Thank you so much for pointing out the obvious. That was helpful. “I’ve been through this before. This is more pain, this is intolerable,” I managed to call to you even though my throat was raw and I could barely speak above a whisper. I called to you because you couldn’t bother to get up off your backside to come to me. “Oh really?” you remarked snidely, “You’ve had a hysterectomy before?” Then I had to make a decision. What to do with what little strength I had?

a) Defend myself by telling you that this was my third abdominal surgery and that I was more than familiar with pain.
b) Beg for more pain medication.
c) Imagine myself flying off the gurney and beating the snot out of you with my own chart.
d) Make a mental note to write a strongly worded letter to the hospital president.
e) Trash you on my blog.

Answer: All of the above.

Few occupations provide the opportunity to really make a difference in the life of another human being – teacher and nurse most readily come to mind. You should probably be neither.

Most sincerely,

Antique Mommy

*  *  * 

Dear Judi, Irva, 4th Floor Nurses and PCTs,

I have thought of you many times since my recent stay in the hospital. I have been thinking of how to best express to you what a difference you made in my life in the two and a half days I was under your care. You did things for me, that really, only my own mother should have to do. You bathed me, fed me and cared for me and you went out of your way to see that I was comfortable and that my pain was manageable. You never once made me feel like I was an inconvenience to your day. You made me feel like I was the most important patient on the floor. I cannot thank you enough or express in words how far that went in speeding my recovery.

I am making a donation to your hospital’s nursing scholarship program in your name so that there might be more nurses like you, nurses who love people and have a heart to serve.

Antique Mommy

33 thoughts on “Good Nurse, Bad Nurse

  1. I wrote this shortly after I came home from the hospital. Several times I scheduled it for publication and then pulled it because it’s kind of negative. But ultimately I decided that it had to be said so that I might resolve it and let it go.

  2. Recently, I needed to get a picture of a certain nurse who was working in recovery. As I walked through, I saw a nurse that I know who was waiting with a patient that was just out of surgery. She could’ve been that patient’s mother but I know she wasn’t. She was patting the woman’s hand and rubbing her hair over and over (I’m sure the lady was furious with the new do) Ann kept whispering quietly but looked up to speak to me. I asked if she would be my nurse if I ever needed one. She nodded and whispered back, “Yes, Honey – of course.”

    I’m so sorry you didn’t get Ann for your nurse!

  3. I’ve had to write up a nurse before. I just wanted to let it go, but for all patients out there, I had to let it be known. Not to hurt her, though that is probably what happened, but because her attitude and unkindess, and disdain, hurt my child. I told her not to give me pain meds I had asked for becuase I was ready to push, and she said “No you aren’t, I just checked you.” and she put the pain meds in my IV! My son was on his way out and he had some problems for awhile because of the meds, though it did no long term damage.

  4. There’s always that one, isn’t there? During my hospital stay of 2 weeks, I had the best nurses anyone could ask for, except for one, who was a little brusque. But the rest were truly wonderful.

    And I’m ashamed to say that option C made me snicker… just a little.

  5. Grrrrr! It’s a good thing that the good nurses make up for the bad ones. I’m sorry that happened to you. Hope you are feeling better.
    When I was 18, I had surgery for an ovarian cyst. Had a male recovery nurse…tried to kiss him while I was waking up from anaesthesia. Eeeek.
    I SO love your writing. I have to visit a few times a week to catch up and make sure I don’t miss any of your posts. I even like the archive posts. You should publish a book!

  6. Oh boy…I had a horrible nurse after the birth of my second child. I was very ill, and very scared, and she was very brusque, very inattentive, and very unqualified.

    She was one of the BIG reasons I decided to become a doula.

    I love your donation idea. Health care is where we really need wonderful people, and there are so few because of the heavy demands, horrible hours, and insufficient salaries.

    I’m glad you had someone wonderful to balance her out.

  7. With Maggie, I do hope you mentioned all nurses, good and bad, in your letter. But I truly hope you wrote that letter regarding rotten recovery-room nurse! I, too, am a letter-writer — I believe people in charge need to know!

    I’m so thankful for those precious floor nurses!

  8. Absolutely I am sending both letters. I’ve been in this hospital for five major surgeries (and a few day surgeries and procedures) and this is the first time I’ve ever encountered a nurse that was not just top-notch and that’s why it was so surprising.

  9. Dear AM — I am so sorry that you had such a bad experience. My last nine years in nursing were in maternity/women’s care. I also worked as a scrub nurse for C-Sections.
    I was thrilled to be there and have had great letters sent to Nursing Service on my behalf. If they get a good or bad one — it is permanently put in a nurse’s file and it follows her on her evaluations. One of our OB/GYN’s had her elderly mother put on our unit for a cancer surgery, because she knew she would get good care from the nurses. She, also, requested that I be her nurse, because I was older and motherly. Later, when her mom died, this doctor called me at home, because she didn’t know anyone else to call who would sort of “mother her”. Believe me, your letters will have an affect on your good nurses and especially the rotten recovery nurse. It’s sort of funny that she did not know with whom she was messing! Are you allowed to mention names and hospitals in a blog

  10. After nineteen operations over my life, I’m a veteran of hospitals and I can spot a bad nurse a mile away. I’ve been where you were and had both extremes many times. It’s shameful the way that recovery room nurse treated you — it’s no comfort, I’m sure, to think it wasn’t just you; she’s probably that way with everyone.

    I know there’s a terrible nursing shortage out there, but the hospital ought to know every detail of your experience with “bad nurse.” I hope you wrote to the hospital administrator and this woman’s direct supervisor.

    Good for you for the donation in the names of the “good nurses.” If you haven’t written a letter to their nurse manager, one wouldn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. My mom’s a nurse, and it always meant a lot for her supervisor to hear favorably from a patient about my mom’s care.

  11. I can’t help but be reminded of my helpful labor nurse who told me that I needed to suck it up because women have babies every day and I probably wasn’t even in labor. Imagine her surprise when three hours later she had let me dilate to 10 centimeters without my requested epidural.

    It’s really one of the fondest experiences of my life.

  12. Your post took me back to the recovery room 10 years ago when I had my own hysterectomy and almost died on the operating table…
    your nurses twin was my recovery nurse… lots of raw emotions came to the surface after I read your post.. and it has been 10 years. You are such a great writer.

  13. When my little girl was newly born and landed in the NICU due to an unexpected breathing issue, we had two of the most glorious nurses ever in the history of medicine–Jackie and Gloria. And we also had one of the WORST. She had LONG hot pink fingernails, and she made my baby lay on her tummy during her first crevage feeding and wouldn’t let me hold her up and was rude and mean and hateful regarding the miniscule amount of breast milk I insisted be put into the formula because it was such a tiny amount (I had worked ALL night long to get it). We had her for TWO shifts. She was horrible both times, but Nurse Gloria had shown me the ropes. There would not have been a third shift with bad NICU nurse. I had the name and number of the nursing manager ready to go–but she never showed up again for our week there.

  14. I’m so sorry for what you went through. I often wonder just what uncompassionate people like that are thinking at the time…and why they decided to go into a field which requires helping other human beings in the first place. Probably because the local prison warden position was already taken. Actually, a prison warden might have even been kinder to you.

  15. Maybe it didn’t occur to Nurse Ratchett that YOU didn’t want to be in Recovery on Valentine’s Day either. I’m all for letter writing. If a person’s behavior needs praising and recognition…I’m there. And when their attitude proves they stink at their job…I’m there, too. I hope you remember her name, because you need to write down everything she said–verbatim–and make sure they know which nurse it was.

  16. Wow. Unfortunately the nursing shortage has enabled some of the most vile and scary people on earth to remain employed all over this country. Makes you cringe to enter a hospital anymore.

    My hubby is studying to be the nicest male nurse in all the land. I’ll show him these pointers… 🙂


  17. I realize this train has already left the station, so to speak, but I want to mention that your healthcare providers are your employees, and as such are subject to termination by you for cause.

    Nothing sends a stronger message to a department head than a nurse (or respiratory therapist or phlebotomist…you get the picture) being “fired” by a patient. I realize that taking a step like this requires a certain amount of wherewithal, which you may or may not have at a moment like that, but it is something to consider when things get really out of hand.

    As a lactation consultant, I’ve seen women treated like queens, and others who were, in my opinion, abused. I am truly sorry for your experience, AM, and for those who’ve commented about their own difficulties.

  18. No one should ever be treated like that anywhere you are a “patron”….. You certainly should speak up to the powers that be. I am afraid I have had the same encounters in education too and wondered why in the world some people chose to be teachers when they clearly didn’t understand or like children. Why in the world would someone who is spends time being educated doing something they obviously don’t even like to do. I hear Taco Bueno is hiring. But, she sounds like she might spit in the food….or worse.

  19. I have not had good experiences with recovery room nurses. In fact, I’ve asked one of my friends (who’s a nurse) to be with me for various things just so I had an advocate and someone who knew what was supposed to be happening!

    I remember after my first baby was born (my L&D nurses were wonderful!) and I went to the recovery rooms, the nurse came in to take out my IV. I asked her if she was sure because I knew I was supposed to get another dose of antibiotics, but she took it out anyway. And oh yes, they had to put it back in to give me the dose of antibiotics. Grrr. I hate IVs – my veins are impossible to find because of scar tissue from so many past IVs and I will not tolerate digging. Then there was the nurse who wouldn’t call a lactation consultant for me after my second child was born. She said she’d nursed four kids and could answer any questions. Excuse me? My kids were not good nursers (after the first we ended up back at the hospital after we went home because he could not latch on and cried for three days straight!) and not to be crude, but she was “flat” and I am not. Her experience was nothing like mine.

    But I’ve had fabulous nurses, too! After my recent health crisis, my ICU nurses were the best people I’ve ever met. I still keep in touch with one! They cared for me and never made me feel embarressed as they bathed me and washed my hair and monitered my bathroom “output” and listened to me talk about how scared I was. When I was frustrated with a doctor, they talked to him and were able to communicate how I was feeling and my relationship with him greatly improved. When things were done that I wasn’t sure about, they would double check or question the doctors. Truly nursing is a calling and good ones are worth their weight in gold!

    I hope that both letters reach the right people. Your experience should not happen to anyone. Imagine how her attitude would affect an elderly person or a child! Good for you for following up.

  20. My heart so grieves for you and the others that have had a bad experience.
    I have been a Registered Nurse for 27 years. I love my job. I love taking care of patients and their families. I cannot imagine ever being so rude to someone.

    Actually, I am now a Director and my nurses are wonderful with people. If I ever had one of them act this way, they would be gone… But they aren’t. They too are so loving.

    But I do know what you say, happens. Please let someone know so that they can deal with this person. It is things like that that gives us a bad name. Just as in any profession, there are the good, the bad and the ugly.

    I hope you do well in your recovery.

    One of His beloved,

  21. Sadly, this is not an uncommon experience. The treatment I received by some nurses when in for surgery to repair my broken leg was no better than the teenager at the McDonald’s drive-thru.

  22. I had the same kind of recovery room nurse after my c-section with my oldest. She was rude and blunt and kept smooshing around on my belly. Okay, so I know the smooshing was necessary, but I was nauseous from all the meds and the smooshing did NOT help the nausea. I wish I’d thought to get her name.

  23. Admirable, AM.. That’s what I think of you while reading this post. And I’m thrilled you’re doing “All of the above” for that terrible nurse.

  24. You go! I’m all for complaining, as high up as you can go, when people are obnoxious, mistreat others, take advantage of their position. I especially seeing them mistreat the little people – whether its young children, those who have less, less power, whatever. Tickled to death to see you did something about it. My family won’t let me put it on our car, but it’s on the downstairs fridge – my favorite all time bumper sticker – “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK.” They do.

  25. Hey! I had the same nurse after my hysterectomy! I would unplug my morphine drip to go over and help my poor roommate who was a day behind me recovery-wise. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Smile. Glad you’re home safe and sound.

  26. I am so sorry about the awful nurse! I am very disappointed in the recovery room manager for allowing someone like that to work in that department. And yes, they would have to know. Its very obvious when a nurse is not compassionate. I am so glad you sent a letter to the hospital. I hope you remembered a name. At the hospital I worked at, they followed up on all letters. The positive ones got put in our break room for everyone to read, the negative ones were discussed individually with the perpetrator. Those letters alone would initiate change in policy and some would lose jobs over them. Which I think is a good thing. Of course if you had 100 great Thank you letters, and 1 bad, of course you wouldn’t be fired. But if you had a bad attitude all the time and then got a bad letter about your experience with a patient (customer) then you could be fired. So PLEASE everyone remember to get names and definitely follow up with a letter to the hospital. The sooner the better. Don’t think of it as being a complainer, think of it as saving the next poor soul from going through what you did. Also if you are in the middle of a situation like that ask to speak to your doctor. Nurses hate to call doctors unless they think it is a warranted situation, because if the doctor is not on duty they most likely will get screamed at. Another possibility is ask to talk to the manager. Although all of that takes a lot of effort for a person who has just come out of surgery. One more hint, if you have a choice try to be scheduled earlier in the day. This is something to talk to your doctor about when you are talking about the surgery itself. The hospital schedules the surgery, but the doctor could express your preference for you and if a spot is available you will most likely get it. Another option, if you have them, is surgery centers. They are a little cheaper than the hospital, so insurance companies love them and their only specialty is surgery so they are 10 thousnad times more into customer service. My hubbys surgery was at a surgery center and they even asked him what music he would like to listen to in the operating room. He said “whatever makes the doctor happy” LOL.

    AM I hope your recovery is going well!

  27. Nurses are really important for recovery after a surgery.If it wasn’t for them a friend of mine wouldn’t have felt so good so soon after her hysterectomy.

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