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Speak Up (Kindly) If Something’s Not Right!

This past year, while receiving treatments at my local cancer care center, I noticed that every time I went for another one, I was being cared for by a different nurse.

I knew that they practiced a primary nursing model there. Of course, no one can be guaranteed the exact same nurse every time we go. Nurses have days off, illnesses, sick children, broken-down cars or whatever, just like any of us can experience at times. But having a different nurse every time was becoming really upsetting to me. For my own comfort, I knew that I had to at least TRY to find out why my nursing assignment was so inconsistent - I was quite sure that there was a valid reason for it, even though I did not understand the reason at the time.

Bringing up my concerns

So I placed a phone call to the nurse manager of the floor. I explained my concerns, and she said “Let’s see if we can figure this out.” As we waited for my info to pop up on her computer, she confirmed that they did indeed strive for primary nursing care, with two associate nurses listed for each patient, in case the primary was not available on a treatment day.

It turned out that the primary nurse of record for me was the very first treatment nurse I’d had. A reasonable thought - but for one thing. The first time I had gone for treatment there happened to be on a Thursday. However, in scheduling ahead for further treatments, I had requested for them all to be on Fridays, so I’d have the weekends to recover. This was able to be granted by the schedulers. But here’s the kicker...that particular nurse works ten hours a day, Monday through Thursday. Therefore, she is not even there on Fridays. Further investigation revealed that one of the two associate nurses listed on my chart was the one and only nurse I’d had along the way whom I had requested NOT to have assigned to me again. I knew that since she was employed there, she certainly “knew her stuff”. But her caregiving style just wasn’t one with which I was comfortable. The third one, I really liked a lot. Mistakenly, I had thought SHE was my primary. I was hoping that we could arrange for that to happen.

We all have our battles

The nurse manager and I had an absolutely wonderful conversation about all of it, and she apologized profusely for having had no idea that my nursing schedule was in such disarray. I said I knew that they take care of hundreds of patients, and of course, they need to go by what’s happening day to day for scheduling. There would have been no reasonable expectation from me for her to realize that I was having a different caregiver every time... unless I spoke up. And because I did, we were able to fix it. I was able to have the one I wanted as my primary, and after a few more minutes of discussion, we had two associates with whom I was comfortable with. It was all taken care of with that one phone call.

We all have our battles, and cancer battles are tough enough as it is. We don’t need any more stress than we already have. People can be very responsive to help... but they have no way of knowing that something isn’t working, if we keep our mouths shut. Is there a stress that you’ve been keeping to yourself? Say something. I’m betting you’ll be really happy that you did.

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