On a daily basis, you are experiencing an influx of patients from all demographics. The child with a bad cough, the woman who can’t shake an ear infection, the man recovering from an accident and the elderly couple who need a checkup. There are far too many different combinations we can put together to highlight the mass amount of diversity in the patients you get and their ailments. However, there is somewhat of a stereotype that follows these patients around. It doesn’t matter who you are as a nurse, what advice you provide or even how friendly you are. Patients will be patients, and they have their own ideas and narratives on what you mean, what is best for them and how they think they will get past whatever is affecting them. It, both fortunately and unfortunately, is something you just must know how to handle, no matter what the situation.
It’s really like any other part of our lives. Take high school for instance. We have been taught to place fellow students in all of these different categories. We have the jocks who are on the football team, the intelligent and hardworking students we call nerds, and the popular kids who coast through with their biggest worries being in their social lives. They too all have their own narratives, thoughts and feelings on what’s important to them and how to handle different situations. While the healthcare field is different and a little more serious, how you need to handle each stereotype and what you need to know about them can make your delivery of information, making of decisions and coming to a solid agreement with your patient that much easier.
Here are the five stereotypes of patients you’ll find while working as a travel nurse.
1. The One That Doesn’t Go To Doctors
The inevitable has occurred. There is finally something wrong enough for the patient to feel they do actually require some professional treatment, or someone close to them has dragged them there because they are worried. Either way, they are finally here and firstly, you need to perceive that as a positive thing. You already know they are going to be standoffish, give you little information and want to do anything else but be in that room with you. If you can stay calm and not get defensive, intently listen and show interest, acknowledge the situation positively, ask open-ended questions and show empathy, your patients will open up faster.
2. The One Who Knows What’s Wrong With Themselves
We also call these patients the self-diagnoser, and there are two ways to go about this. Sometimes we will receive patients who have done some of their own research on what they think is wrong with them and we can use that information to further analyze what is going on. Not always a bad thing. Then we have the patient that has heard or discovered a disease that is so farfetched and unlikely that it takes all of our willpower not to look confused or in some cases to giggle a little bit. The first one is a little easier to handle, the second we need to be careful. While judgment needs to stay out of the room as the patient is having real feelings of fear for what they have concocted, it is also imperative that you calmly and intently make them understand this is not what they have. This typically works easier if you first come up with more accurate ideas of what they could have before shutting down their own interesting diagnosis.
3. The One Who Likes To Keep It Natural
Some genuine all-natural people take all natural things into account across their lives, respectfully. Then we have patients who will throw down a big mac meal but don’t want to take the medication that’ll fix what they came in for. It’s a hard balance to have, but we should be looking at the fact that they inevitably are trying to take care of themselves, despite the massive inconsistencies. As a nurse, it’s good to have some little back pocket statements that you can bring forward in times of skepticism. For instance, our bodies in this continuous phase of infection-fighting over a long time can actually be really bad for our systems, or you can weigh out natural options in conjunction with medical practices to see whether they affect each other. In these cases, it’s good to work together to come up with a solution they feel comfortable with. No matter what their ideas on the matter are.
4. The One And All Of Their Family
Despite there just being one patient in need of help and that being one person you need to speak to. You end up in a room with a group of family members throwing questions at you from left right and center. It’s overwhelming, to say the least, and a little irritating during a full day of work. On top of this, usually, the patient is nothing like the rest of their family, so focus on that. Calmly ask all of the family members to basically stop talking please, and speak to one who really needs your attention. Despite the crazy energy of it all, it should be soothing to know they have a whole group of people ready to help them and you have to admit, they do keep your shift interesting.
5. The One Who Reminds You Of Why You Are A Nurse
You walk into the room and see worried eyes staring back at you. Hope that you will help them figure out whatever is going on. Despite all of the patients above being fearful and nervous about what is happening to them too and experiencing adverse mental and emotional reactions to this, it’s the patients that sit wide-eyed waiting for your response that touch your heart. These, for the most part, are the patients that do trust you and want your help. Though that also means you need to make sure you are communicating with them and intently listening to them, finding a diagnosis for their problems and showing empathy too. For the most part, they can be seen as the easier patient and they do remind you why you’re doing your job in the first place.
Patients come in all shapes and sizes, with ailments and ideas on what they should and shouldn’t listen to. Although as a travel nurse it can be frustrating, you constantly need to show resilience and patience in the face of difficulties. At the end of the day, a hospital is a frightening place. Everyone has their own reactions to their circumstances, and it’s your job to make them feel safe and heard and hopefully be able to help whatever it is they need help with. It’s a tough job, but that’s also why you do it!