Rough

Today is one of those days where I really need to be careful, otherwise the disjunction between what the public expects of us, and what we actually do will get me in trouble.
At the moment my body is feeling ready to give up, a troublesome changeover from night to day work doesn't help, neither does the sore throat or the feeling that my soul is still in Seattle waiting for a flight back to my body in London.

This means that the chances of me having a “sense of humour” failure are greater than normal.

I noticed it yesterday with my last job – I was called to a “60 year old male, collapsed in park”. Now there are of course many reasons why someone collapses in the park, and while I keep an open mind the chances are very high that it is alcohol related.

So I got there, and there was a concerned member of the public fussing over a drunk alcoholic. All power to him, he had spotted someone in distress, and was trying to help out as best he could, and I'd much rather have people like that compared to the calls we get of “Man laying in street, poss. dead. Caller cannot stay on scene”, which always seems to be a drunk.

The care I gave was the same as the care I would normally give, but I wasn't as “warm” as I normally am. I was polite, but there was something deep down in me that really couldn't be bothered with dealing with yet another alcoholic.

The ambulance turned up about a minute later, and took care of the patient – but I was aware that the bystander was probably not happy with my apparent lack of empathy.

This is that disjunction that I mentioned – the public expects us to be constantly caring people, dealing with what they see as a serious emergency – while to us it is a regular alcoholic, with very little newly wrong with them. And while we often hide our apathy behind our professionalism, it can sometimes slip.

It's that sort of job that will earn you a complaint from someone for being “not caring enough”.

The fact that I feel rough (through no fault of my own) might just mean that the mask of caring might slip – and while I have no problem with people who are actually ill – if I get the usual rubbish, I'll have to be very, very careful.

I might have to do a proper post on this when I'm feeling a bit better, as it's quite an important thing about our work.

17 thoughts on “Rough”

  1. Sometimes we just have to take the complaints with the praise. Sometimes I just can't like a patient, can't even appear to like a patient, can't laugh at their attempts to jolly me into doing what they want me to do. Sometimes I can't even laugh at their ridiculously bad habits and self destructive behaviours, not even AT them deep down. But I always feel bad about it, too. Because it can become a habit of contempt that takes the joy out of my work. I call it having a Bad Nurse Day, and promise to do better tomorrow.Lots of water and easy on the beer this week, you know.

  2. Sometimes we just have to take the complaints with the praise. Sometimes I just can't like a patient, can't even appear to like a patient, can't laugh at their attempts to jolly me into doing what they want me to do. Sometimes I can't even laugh at their ridiculously bad habits and self destructive behaviours, not even AT them deep down. But I always feel bad about it, too. Because it can become a habit of contempt that takes the joy out of my work. I call it having a Bad Nurse Day, and promise to do better tomorrow.Lots of water and easy on the beer this week, you know.

  3. I can imagine that is particularly difficult when you feel like this and someone has done something preventable. On a lesser note mothers of teenagers often feel like this., and say things that make mothers of sweet fluffy children recoil in horror. The phrase “tell someone who cares “has been known to be used in this house.

  4. The bottom line is – you still did your job. The man was treated in exactly the same way as anyone else would be in that situation. The fact that you were feeling crap and you 'slipped' as you say didn't hurt or affect anyone – least of all the patient who was prob too comatose to notice. You are not superhuman and everyone has their good days and their bad days. That is normal. You are prob more paranoid about a potential complaint because you aren't feeling 100% physically – jet lag can really change your mood. Try not to worry about it if you can.

  5. I'm a nurse on an A+E observation ward in a big London hospital, and I kind of know what you mean. Some days our ward is full of homeless alcoholic tramps with scabies and cheesy feet, and whilst some of them are no bother, others among them are in and out of hospital every other day with the same thing (alcohol-related head injury / collapse)… it does get you down sometimes, but I think you did the right thing – you just did your job and got on with it. No one can sue you for thinking bad things about them!Michelle

  6. You have acknowledged it. Deal with it when you are back to normal and move on. I think you do a great job.Pat

  7. If things went down exactly as you described I can't see how anyone could be justified in complaining about you; you said you were polite and gave exactly the same level of care as for any other patient, but just weren't “warm and fuzzy” with it.It's easy for someone who wasn't there to say, but do try not to let it worry you.

    If I may add a personal note, I've recently started my Tech training course (not with LAS) and we were told in our first week that 95% of complaints are about “manner and attitude”. Once I'm turned loose on real people, apart from cocking-up completely (which I hope my mentor won't allow me to do) this is the thing that worries me the most, especially since I've never been one to suffer fools gladly.

  8. How true Joan. My Dad died in a fabulous Hospice and in the same area was a terribly difficult and rude man whose personality traits, sadly, became worse as he deteriorated. I was privileged to witness his very gentle death, comforted by a Nurse. I asked her later how she managed that and she said “Oh, you don't have to *like* someone to give them 100%”. I was training at the time for a different health care profession but it was an example that stayed with me.Sadly, now I see too many people who, to borrow Reynolds phrase, can't be arsed to “hide the apathy behind professionalism”. What is even sadder is that these folks are not having the very understandable 'off-day' it's a permanent habit.

    Reynolds I bet your worst is better than most people's best. Be kinder to yourself!

  9. Which professions, apart from the NHS and teachers, are expected to care deeply as well as doing a perfect job for 100% of the time?Some of the public expect this, and we end up expecting it of ourselves, but it's an unrealistic and unfair expectation.

    Personally, I don't think it would be healthy to care that much, all the time – doing the job well is more important.

    If the public want public servants to care 100% of the time, they have to pay a bit more, advertise in heaven, and employ real angels.

  10. Reynolds, I think you're perfectly horrid and as recompense you should kiss all unconscious alcoholics on discovery, on the lips (with tongues) for the next month. I'll be watching to make sure you do it.

  11. Been reading for a few months and the thing I find amazing is how much you do care. As a fellow health care worker I know the feeling where you just can't get on with a patient and do the neccesary but without the smile/joke/empathy you normally have. Feels shit and you go away thinking you are turning into some cold psychopath.Not so. What you are doing is being human. For some reason nurses, doctors, LAS etc are expected to be able to rise above normal behaivour. Why ? We are just people, make mistakes, erros of judgement, have bad days and so on. The trick is to understand that this is reasonable and unavoidable, and do the J.O.B. right despite it, even if you don't get a warm fuzzy feeling from each and every one.

    G

  12. Can't love 'em all, man.And that is coming from someone in a profession that some would say we have to love ALL our clients, which is, quite frankly, impossible.

    Cxx

  13. Hi,First time here, just dropped in.

    I've just finished basic training for EMS in New Zealand, currently for Events division and hopefully starting as a volunteer ambulance officer in a couple of months. I have been to a couple of events as an observer.

    Especially with events, I've always wondered how I'll react to some idiot who has drugged themselves up to their eyeballs and needs your help because of their own stupidity. Of course I'll end up treating them, I think it will just get me down knowing that they will go out the next weekend and do the same thing…

    Craig

  14. I too have to deal with the ' seamier' sections of society as a community nurse…it's not easy so don't be too hard on yourself.Keep up the good work, blogwise and as a paramedic.

  15. You'll be fine. The training kicks in, and you are so worried about making a huge balls up you do everything by the book. (Plus there are normally witnesses).The danger area is 2 years later, when you think you have seen it all, and become cocky. That's when you make mistakes, and that is when you get the complaints.

    Not that I'm saying that you'll do that, but that it is something to think about.

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