An Unhealthy Dose Of Bad Manners

by admin on August 13, 2012

I am a nurse in an intensive care unit in a large metropolitan hospital. Often we see people at their worst, and their relatives and friends too! It can be amazing how many ‘friends’ come out of the woodwork when someone is seriously ill in hospital. Often a patient will be unconscious or feel very tired and unwell, and may not be in a position to refuse visitors. For this reason we recommend that only close family and friends visit a person in the ICU.

However some people do not understand this and family often feel powerless to say no. I cared for a young girl ‘B’ who had a severe head injury following a high speed car vs truck accident. Her mother was killed, and her boyfriend severely injured as well. This event was on the radio and TV for several days, as the main highway was closed for hours following the crash.

B came from a complicated family, as her father had died and her mother remarried twice, and there were many family members to contend with. Her oldest brother was appointed as the ‘family contact’ as this makes our job easier, by speaking with just one rather than many people. On this day, there were lots of visitors again, about 3 days after the accident. Then 2 women came in to visit, apparently friends of B’s mother. They immediately began to fuss with sheets, try to comb B’s hair, wipe her face, etc., etc. This is not permitted in the ICU as B had a breathing tube in that could be dislodged, and many other tubes, as well as a large surgical wound on her head. I started to ask the women to just restrict themselves to holding B’s hand, when they whipped up the bed sheets to ‘make her legs comfortable’. I was horrified, as they exposed B’s private parts and the curtains were wide open! I pulled the sheet back down firmly and asked them to leave it alone.

They stated that they worked in the nursing industry too – as carers. This is quite different from an experienced ICU nurse! One of them held her hand up in front of my face to stop me stopping them. I tried to explain the risks of dislodging tubes, but they continued on. One demanded cream so that they could rub B’s pressure points (heels, elbows etc)! I had to say no, this action causes pressure sores, not prevents them! After all this, they left when other people wanted to come in. I asked the family that these women NOT be allowed back in as they weren’t family, thankfully B’s brother agreed!

I know their intentions were to be kind and caring, but they were dangerous and rude. Even when asked to stop, they saw themselves as in the right. ‘Hospital etiquette’ should be about loving your loved one, not taking over the hospitals job. 0809-12

How serendipitous this story was submitted at this time!   A month or so ago my husband and I made a hasty trip to see a dear friend of mine who was in the ICU at a metropolitan hospital several states away from where we live.   I experienced firsthand some bizarre behavior by others that had me horrified and furious.

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

TylerBelle August 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Years ago when my dad was in ICU, I got see and hear about the odd behavior of some, I suppose, well-meaning relatives. Such as bringing pajamas and stuff, apparently assuming he’d be able to easily put them on.

The “stopping” hand held up to the face as the OP experienced, I hoped I would have been able to mind my manners had it happened to me. It’s rather condescending.

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gramma dishes August 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I’m really surprised by this story!

I’ve only had two experiences with relatives being in ICU and in both cases the rules were very strict. Only ten minutes of visiting, every hour on the hour. Only immediate family: spouses, parents, children, grandchildren, maybe siblings were allowed in. No one else.

The nurse was the Absolute and Ultimate Commander in Chief. You did what she said or you were OUT. Immediately! If anyone dared even look like they were going to argue, security showed up within seconds to “assist” that person off the unit. Their names were sent to the guest check in and they were never issued guest passes or allowed back into the unit at all as long as the patient remained there — even if they were relatives.

I honestly thought that this story was going to say that the “friends” felt compelled to tell the young girl that her mother had died, or that she was going to die (and/or her boyfriend) or something along those lines.

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C August 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Wow, that’s really disgusting. ICU is a place where pulling out one wrong tube can end in disaster. What were these women thinking?!

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Kimberly August 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm

When my Dad passed away in the ICU, I was dealing with my sister and mother who could barely hold it together. My Aunt and sister’s fiance now my BIL were there and that helped. This was a small town hospital with a small ICU waiting area. The two other families with people in the unit, whispered to the nurses and left. They gave use 10 – 20 minutes alone to get things together and deal with the Organ Donor questions and other things that had to be handled right then. (We said yes, but Dad was on steroids so couldn’t be a donor.

I was never able to thank those families, in the mist of their own trauma made things a little easier for us. (A friend was a nurse there. I asked why they didn’t have a separate room to deal with this type of thing. She said that in all the years she worked there that was the first time with multiple families in the ICU room and a death. Usually conversations about treatment happened in the room – which makes sense. They were looking into making some changes to have a more private area.)

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nutraxfornerves August 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Over the last few years, my husband has had several medical episodes that have sent him to ICU, in 4 different hospitals. I have gotten all-too-famliar with ICU procedures.

In all of the hospitals, visitor admission was restricted. There were different ways of doing this depending on the hospital. But, in each case, both the principal contact and the primary physician could restrict visitors. It could be “only people on this list can visit” or “these people are specifically forbidden.”

I was sometimes, but not always, informed of this policy. Sometimes I only heard about it from nursing staff or social workers in passing. One social worker told me (without giving specifics) that she had seen people trying to get critically ill people to sign wills or financial powers of attorney.

Based o my experience, I wish more hospitals would check to see if there is a “corporate culture” that discourages nursing staff from alerting physicians about visitor problems.

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Rachel August 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm

With how strict places are with HIPAA, I don’t get how people who barely know the patient would be allowed in to harass her. Talk about mismanaging priorities.

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MetalRose August 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm

I work as an EMT and often find the same scenarios when people follow the ambulance. I tell them, “if we turn on the lights and sirens during transport, do not try and keep up with us. We have been trained to safely navigate traffic, including red lights.” 90% of people tailgate us and drive as we drive, they aren’t too happy when they are stopped by the Police and given several very expensive tickets… and I have found that anyone in the medical field is a pain to deal with on scene… the difference is, most of the time their certification or licensure is NOT valid outside the hospital, nursing home, etc setting and mine is.

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Brockwest August 12, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Hospital admissions affect more than just the direct family. Sometimes the injured may have been very dear to others in their lives. In not the too distant past gay partners were not allowed in the ICU. There is a horrifying story in the archives where a step-child was not allowed to be part of the end-of-life discussion as they were not considered “family” by the ICU.
Many of the ICU rules are there for a purpose, but some are for the convenience of staff instead of for the family. Restricted visiting hours can help the patient rest and let the nurses do their nursing duties, but on the other hand, for many patients and families, a well-behaved family member there to hold their hand could be of great benefit.
On non-ICU floors, there used to be visiting hours..now a family member is allowed to stay overnight, to great benefit to the patient. I feel all families need a polite ombudsman to help their family member…to make sure call lights are answered, commodes obtained, and to double-check in-coming medicines. I have personally witnessed many, many accidental errors on family members and friends…wrong medicines, unanswered call lights, allergic medicines, unnoticed changes in vital signs, and the like.
In this particular case, I agree that the friends should not have touched the patient in view of the head wound, but in many cases, a gentle touch and caress is actually known to the patient’s subconscious. I believe in speaking to the apparently unconscious patient.
I remember my last wife was felt to be brain-dead at the end. I tried all the standard tricks (open your eyes, stick out your tongue, raise a finger if you can hear me.) I, too, felt she was gone. Our daughter came to see her for the first time and started to cry, then to my sorrow, I saw my wife was also crying, meaning she was “locked-in” meaning her body had died, but her mind was awake. I re-doubled my efforts and finally found a way to communicate, then showed it to the nurses so they could verify it, which they did.
Nurses in the ICU should be obeyed, but just because a nurse is an ICU nurse doesn’t always make them correct. A smart family member will be polite, obey, but ask if something seems incorrect, especially in the graveyard shift on week-ends. Ask for a physician or second opinion if something seems wrong.
A family asked me to visit their family member in a distant state. I saw the machines were improperly set, so politely asked the staff to have them checked. The ICU nurses took great offense. I advised the family to request the physician to check the patient. The physician came in greatly offended, but found, indeed, the airway tube was in the stomach. It can be important to ask.
On the other hand, I’ve witnessed some horrifying family behavior, especially with tons and tons of noisy visitors with very young kids who are yelling and moving the bed up and down to the discomfort of the patient and roommate.
The OP had a very good idea here…appoint ONE family member as the spokesman, as frequently ten try to be in charge. One funny way I’ve heard on how to decide…ask “Well, who is accepting responsibility for the bill?” That tends to knock out many.
I’ve also seen it sad in that a worn-out caregiver for an end-of-life situation has accepted that no more care should be given, only to have a distant relative from a far-off city arrive, one who has never lifted a finger to help, who comes swooping in, DEMANDING that all medical devices be reattached.
It is vital for everyone to sign a living will, designating who decides what care should be done, and even better to state what care you want or don’t want to be done at the end.
I do so wish that ICU’s could modernize like regular floors have, to allow longer quiet visitation with one designated significant other. I also wish Hospitals in general would figure out what torture chambers waiting rooms can be for families who have to “live” there for days at a time. Plastic chairs don’t cut it. Lazy-boy recliners would be ideal. Blankets for the family would be wonderful.
I’ve personally slept on two plastic chairs, a chapel pew, the floor.
The designated head family member should discuss with the Nurse about visitation with friends and distant family. Someone who is coming just to be nice to the family should stay with the family…they don’t need to take up valuable visitation-hour time.
I’ve even personally experience that all night-shift ICU nurses are not necessarily all by definition qualified. I awoke and could not breathe, but could NOT convince the nurse. She told me my oxygen level was normal, so I was full of it. In my post-operative state, woozy from the medicines, I was confused how it could be normal when I knew I was dying of lack of oxygen. I desperately thought back to class to explain it, then remembered that a normal oxygen level is for someone who is not on oxygen. I was on 100% oxygen, breathing 5 times the normal rate with a special mask, so my oxygen level should be 6 times higher. I then DEMANDED a physician, and got an Intern and had to explain it to him. He gave adrenaline which opened my airways and allowed a gigantic blood clot (18 inches long) to release with the immediate effect of a normal airway.
Another time I went to see my newborn niece in the nursery window, and saw he was blue. I notified the nurse who took offense, as I was not an immediate member of the family as an uncle. I demanded a physician and was almost arrested, but the physician came and started to chew me out, but I said LOOK! The baby was rushed to be put on a ventilator.

Nurse and Physicians are angels of mercy, but not all are as qualified as TV shows would have you believe. Because of monetary cut-backs, many unqualified people are doing the patient care now as the qualified nurses are stuck doing paper work. So yes, people should politely question and politely ask for a second opinion if needed, and no, people should not interfere with care or refuse to obey instructions.

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WhirlyBird August 12, 2012 at 11:15 pm

That’s horrible.

What is it about hospitals that just makes people…weird? Last fall I was in the hospital for several days, twice in the space of a week to have surgery. One friend came and visited each time and would.not.leave. She would show up at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and stay until 9 or 1o at night. She was trying to clean up my incision sites, and help me to the bathroom and fussing over my vitals. She’s nowhere near the medical industry. In the meantime, I’m dealing with catheter and drains, and in pain, and just exhausted. She would just not get the hint (or the direct statement) that I wanted to be alone or just go to sleep – despite that I was in and out of consciousness.

I’m learning though. I’m having surgery again in a couple of weeks. This time, I’m not telling anyone other than my partner.

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Cat August 12, 2012 at 11:21 pm

If there’s a time to call security, I think this is one of them. ICU needs to have strict regulations as to visitors, the time they are allowed to remain, and the functions they may perform.
My Father had a near fatal heart attack. My older brother was in college and refused to visit Dad, saying that sick people should not have visitors.
Our grandmother (and, if Satan had a sister ) lived with us, and she waited until brother was working at the county fair with a CB volunteer organization to call him and to demand that he hurry to the ICU unit and see Dad.
Furious that he had been called, he stormed into the ICU unit, demanding to know why he was expected to give up his valuable time to deal with this (expletive) and why the (expletive) she had interfered with him after he made it clear that he was not to be bothered. The ICU nurse had to threaten to have him physically thrown out of the hospital before he would stop screaming profanities and leave.

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Rhiannon August 13, 2012 at 1:03 am

When my mother had a massive stroke we had one person who showed up just to gawk. She was a coworker of mom’s who had made her very unhappy . This woman and mom’s boss did everything they did to make her quit. I feel they added to mom’s stres enough to help cause the stroke.

I was returning to the hospital after a short time away and ran into this woman leaving. It was mere days after the stroke and I was still in shock. My mom raised me to always be polite so I was cordial to her. I asked if she stopped to talk to dad she had not and only asked me how mom was. I was honest and told her touch and go. She said little else and then left.

I went to mom’s room and the nurse told me she stopped this woman from barging in because it was obvious she was just there to stare and not as a friend. She directed the woman to the waiting room where dad was soo she had no excuse not to talk to him.

Dad was upset to hear she showed up and commented that he thought she was there just to bring gossip back to the office.

All these years later I still harbor a bad feeling towards this woman. I never saw or heard from her again. So I know she wasn’t acting out of concern when she showed up.

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josie August 13, 2012 at 6:13 am

They make me think a call to security was the next step.

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Karen Tippy August 13, 2012 at 7:07 am

Poster, having also worked in a large ICU and dealt with this sort of visitor, I know the value of “I’m sorry, X can’t have any visitors for the next 10/15/20/60 minutes as we have to turn her/wash her/whatever”. Sounds harsh but there are many many visitors who turn up to ICU just to benefit themselves. They cause trouble and are better off not being there.

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Chris August 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

It would seem to me that if these ‘guests’ were doing things that put the patient’s health and well-being in jeopardy that you as the resident nurse would have the authority to have them removed. Is this not the case?

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jen a. August 13, 2012 at 7:29 am

I’d imagine that there would also be concerns regarding the spread of germs. I know when I gave birth, only a select few people were allowed in the room. This was one of the only ways that people could effectively control any diseases that might have been going around.

Also, I hate the inconsiderate behaviour of people regarding a patient’s privacy. Just because they’re unconscious doesn’t mean they don’t mind their business put on display. It’s a violation, pure and simple.

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Wendy Geoghan August 13, 2012 at 7:57 am

This kind of behavior always surprises me. My nephew was in a horrible traffic accident. While in intensive care, the mother of a friend of his turned his oxygen supply to a lower setting! She is a nurse and thought she knew better.Family members sent for the attending nurse. The doctor came in and took her out and read her the riot act. She couldn’t believe her “help” wasn’t appreciated.

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The Elf August 13, 2012 at 8:18 am

I’ve visited friends in the ICU before. You go because you are worried about them, sometimes because their condition is terminal and it is your last chance to say goodbye. Plus hospital stays can be so boring! If the patient is conscious, they might relish the break in monotony. When I was in the hospital briefly (trauma, not ICU), I had three visitors and loved every minute of the visits. The alternative was watching horribly bad TV. After hour 3, I would have done just about anything for a book.

Anything that involves touching the patient is a no-go (other than holding hands, and even that might be dicey depending on the illness). Always, always get the patient’s or nurse’s permission first. You’re just there to lift spirits. In fact, when I’ve visited ICU I always make sure to check in at the nurse’s station first to make sure it’s okay to visit. Most of the time they’ll stop you anyway. If there are restrictions on what you can and cannot do while visiting, they’ll tell you.

I think the best thing a friend can do is spell the family (assuming the patient has family visiting). They often need a sympathetic ear, or someone to stay with the patient while they take a break, or even someone to run some much-needed errands while they are with the patient. If you know the family at all, ask them first about visiting. You might do the most good for the patient by NOT being there in person but helping the family behind the scenes.

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AS August 13, 2012 at 8:34 am

Why would someone want to comb the hair of a person with huge surgical wound on the head is beyond me! I wouldn’t dare to touch a bad would within 3 days, and if I do, it will be with a professional medical person’s supervision. And then she had breathing tube and all!

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Angela August 13, 2012 at 9:03 am

People can be so clueless. I went into labor with my second child about 3 weeks early. My daughter was about 5 and stayed for a couple of days with friends who had a child the same age. I appreciated my friends’ help but they brought the girls to visit me in the OB unit and stayed…and stayed…and stayed. Then one of them casually mentioned that their own daughter was just getting over being sick! You’re not supposed to enter the OB unit at all if you’re sick. I finally told them I had to get some sleep and everyone left.

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Jenny August 13, 2012 at 9:21 am

My Dad is a doctor and I’ve been to the ICU a few times with him. The nurses were always a force of nature. I don’t recommend visiting ever as a friend or non-close family member. If the person isn’t in a state to see you, they aren’t going to recognize you or be comforted by your presence. It’ll just prevent rest. Second, if the person is in a state where they won’t recover, it’s really awful to see. Some people think “it’s my last chance to see so and so” but, really, they don’t look like themselves. Better to remember them as they really were.

Obviously, this is just a personal opinion, but if it’s not an immediate family member, I don’t visit people who aren’t going to wake up, because it’s better for the immediate family to give them space and better for you to remember the friend as they would have wanted to be remembered.

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Wendy B August 13, 2012 at 9:39 am

The nurse’s word is LAW. You do what she/he says and that includes not touching, being quiet and leaving when told.

I’ve seen nurses in ICU give great latitude to visiting when the person may be about to die. I’ve also seen them kick people out when they got to be too much. I don’t think we give our nurses enough credit for the stuff they put up with.

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lkb August 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

It sounds as is “carers” is another term for nursing assistant, which I was for several years. It’s appalling to note that in many cases, these people receive very, very little training (in my case 15 weeks). Yet, they are given a massive amount of responsibility (on some weekends, I was the only aide for 43(!!!) patients with no-restocking of briefs/bedpans/linens etc. for the entire weekend. The nurses always seemed to be charting (and charting and charting and charting). That’s why I am no longer one — I was ordered to do waaaay too many things that were “beyond my pay grade” that would have put too many lives in jeopardy.

The OP did the right thing. To be charitable, I have to believe these “carers” were trying to do the right thing as they had been taught but simply did not know any better. Sigh. (Though I have to believe they’d have known about the tubes.)

From the other side of the picture, I must recount an experience I had when my mother was hospitalized. In the beginning, it didn’t look like she would make it and the staff could not have been kinder and more courteous. However, as time passed, when she began to improve, they completely ignored her: She was eventually moved to another room at the very end of the floor and it seemed like hardly anyone went in to check on her. One evening, my sister (a respiratory therapist) went to visit and found my mother had turned blue! She called for help and helped the staff bring Mom back around (Thanks be to God!). However, the next day, when I went to visit, I asked if the episode would affect the plan of releasing my mom the next day. “What episode?” There was nothing in her chart about the fact that my mom was essentially dead for several minutes! (Turns out there was, the report was in the hospital’s secret file — where they keep the problematic reports that could end up in lawsuits.)

Long story short — hospital staff, patients and family members all bring different things to the table — for better or for worse. It’s not like it’s shown in the TV or movies.

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Lisa August 13, 2012 at 10:37 am

We had a friend in ICU who had no local family members. The ICU staff was very nice in letting his friends take the place of family members. He was in a coma for about 4 weeks, and the staff kindly answered all of our questions which they probably didnt have to do since we were not true famly. He did finally recover and went back and thanked them all for taking care of him.

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barb August 13, 2012 at 10:53 am

When DH was in the stroke unit at the hospital, another patient’s family came to visit, across the hall, and stayed til midnight. Not bad, except they had 2 0r 3 LITTLE kids who ran up and down the halls the whole time. The nurses would not do anything, when I asked them, they just shrugged.

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The Elf August 13, 2012 at 11:11 am

I guess we need to add hospitals to weddings and funerals for things that bring out the worst (and sometimes best) in people?

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Hemi August 13, 2012 at 11:14 am

I think after asking them to stop what they were doing and they did not, the OP would have been well within her rights to call security. Many people mean well and want to help, but ICU is a place where you should ask BEFORE doing.

I agree with @jen a about a paitent’s privacy. When my grandmother was in ICU and needed to be bathed or have bed linens/gowns changed, my aunt’s boyfriend would NOT leave the room. The men folk would go get a beverage or walk outside or something when the nurses would do this. ( The daughters stayed, in case they needed to help) Not this man-after about the 5th time of all the men leaving (and they invited him to come, so it was not as though he was being ignored) and this man just hanging out- my mom told him point blank to get out. He started to act offended and she said said, “No, no discussions. My mother is going to have parts of her body exposed and you do not get to see. She has not even met you yet. GET OUT NOW. I don’t care where you go as long as it is not in here”.

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Cerys August 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I’m with everyone who mentioned security. What these women was doing was potentially highly dangerous to the patient. After their first refusal to heed the OP, they should have been sent packing.

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--Lia August 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm

The medical field and hospital practice are ones where things are changing so swiftly that I do have a tiny bit of sympathy for people who get it wrong because they’re behind the times. The “carers” obviously thought they were helping. They might remember a time, maybe only a few years ago, when they would have been helpful. They’re probably confused about the difference between the ICU and a rehab facility or might recall when patients stayed in hospitals for general care instead of being hurried out as they are now. (I think this is good move, but that’s another subject.)

That doesn’t mean the ICU nurse wasn’t right to stand her ground. I think I would have wanted her to call security after they started fussing with the sheets and certainly at the first hand stop sign that signaled they were going to do what they wanted despite the nurse’s explanation.

Hospitals are places that blur the line between the socially acceptable and the legal. You can have all the etiquette rules you want about who’s in charge of doing what sort of caring and who should visit when and what’s appropriate about being in the room when different procedures are performed, but the bottom line is that there are laws in place that cover these things. I’m sure I don’t agree with every law, but even I’ll admit that I’d rather have laws than a free-for-all.

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Miss Raven August 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm

On one hand, I have to see things from these womens’ perspective. Their friend had just died, and her daughter, whom they may have known since she was very young, was in serious condition. And with no parents. If it were me, I might feel a certain responsibility to the child of my departed friend and want to help.

That being said, if they refused to heed the directions of the ICU nurse, they should have been asked to leave immediately.

I don’t see malice in this, or arrogance… just complete obliviousness.

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anotherloginname August 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Wow. Just wow. I recently spent two weeks in hospital, the first 8 days in ICU, 5 in a coma. From what I have heard the staff were AMAZING. I had someone with me around the clock except during doctors rounds, and when the nurses were doing anything ‘personal’.

The only problem I had was once I came around. Those extended visiting hours are not always a blessing. Try being horribly sick, wanting to sleep and have a bit of personal space, and having your mother/partner/father/brother/grandmother all being around. They have all travelled and taken time off work, spent a week by your bed being told you are likely to die…. then you wake up and they won’t go! You know they are there because they love you, but you just need some space. Personally I could have done with not a family advocate, but a nurse asking me what I wanted (without family there!) but since my family had been so wonderful they continued talking to the family advocate even when I was awake. Sensible given I was a bit confused, but a bit frustrating.

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Cat August 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

This has decided me. I am dying at home without help from family or from friends. I’d hate to have to get off my death bed just to slap the mess out of someone.

I’d like to die as St. Francis of Assisi did-naked and singing the praises of God, “Be praised my God, for our sister, Bodily Death…” but I get fed up with idiots much too easily and I’d have to slap some of these folks if they acted as they are described here.

It wouldn’t make for a good obituary in the paper, “She was dying peacefully right up until someone tried to put lipstick on her, and she knocked them across the room.”

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Onlyme August 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Wow, I know there is a lot that medical staff have put up with. I think their caught between a rock and a hard place at times.

The best/worst I’ve seen was when a friend’s bro was in ICU (forgot for what) but other patients family. They would bring in dishes and the whole family would eat in the “ICU waiting room” about 20 seats and bring in stuff with Peanuts, when the signs everywhere said “NUT FREE ZONE”. The Best part was when the Nurses actually called security and everyone got kicked out and was not allowed to bring food in any more. See my friends brother was severly allergic.

My heart goes to families and medical staff who have to put up with stuff like this.

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Michellep August 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I have been a nurse’s aide and am now a nurse. Several readers here have completely missed the point of the story and have gone off on ridiculous tangents about healthcare professionals. I was certified as a nurse aide after several months of training and never asked to do anything outside the range of my training. I just finished nursing school and have found them to be caring professionals.

Yes we are overworked, and we are human, and make mistakes. I have only been a nurse for a few months and yes, spend most of my time charting. However, I spend more than enough time dealing with people like in the OP’s story that makes it that much harder to do what I have worked hard to do.

Brockwest, your post is entirely too long and parts of it are absurd. Yes, you were right to point out the instances you saw but unless you are a nurse or other medical professional, don’t say we are unqualified. Also, if you “couldn’t breathe”, how could you spend so much time talking?

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Jeanne August 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I was in the ICU a few years ago, unconscious with a breathing tube. The hospital had a doctor whose assigned job was to help my family through all the issues of having someone in ICU. They said it was really helpful.

I have also had issues personally with family members. I have one who will not leave the room no matter how personal the procedure. Then she goes home and posts all my business on Facebook. She won’t listen to me.

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Maggie August 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Why didn’t the LW call security???

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AS August 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I do agree with Broakwest and lkb: medical professionals could be slack sometimes and not perfectly qualified always (and not care even if they are qualified) . I know it, because my mother’s condition deteriorated because of a bad doctor (though she had a wonderful doctor when she finally died, and he did not try to keep her on life support once she was brain dead – she had always wanted to die with dignity. She was not too old either).

But it does not seem that the two ladies were doing anything productive. It is possible that they were traumatized that the girl’s mother died, and the only other close relation to the girl – her boyfriend was critical too, and thought they had to help her. They probably just went too far.
There are of course the gossip-mongers, though these two ladies probably aren’t in that category.

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Brandi August 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm

In my ICU experience, it was the “2 people at a time in the room but OK for there to be multiple guests in the waiting area” rule that caused problems.

The waiting area was a long hall that stretched past several rooms. My mother had essentially died on the way to the hospital but was resussitated. All indictions were that she was brain-dead, but she was placed on life support for 4 days. During that time, the hall was filled with her and my fathers extended family, people from our church, my grandparent’s church, my uncle’s church, even some old high school friends of my dad who had heard the news. They all meant well and were just trying to be supportive.

Some of these people had never even met my mother. I, her only child, could not get into her room, alone, to grieve and say my goodbyes. Towards the end of day 3, I went to the corner of tha hall and quietly went into sobbing hysterics because I could not get so much as a minute alone with her and the press of people immediately outside were door were adding their own stress. You have never seen two men clear an area so fast as my dad and our preacher did that day. Our end of the hall went from having about twenty people in it to just dad and I in what seemed like seconds. No one retruned for about half an hour and I finally got see Mom for a few minutes alone (and then a few minutes more with Dad) without the constant noise of voices from the hall.

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Laura August 13, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I’ve seen a woman call in her own priest to bless the baby in the the bed next to her daughter – after his parents had explicitly told her multiple times that they were Atheists (their baby, awesomely, was called Anakin) & that they found her pushing her religion onto their sick child extremely offensive.

She ended up being forcefully escorted out after my parents came in to the hospital one day to find a Catholic priest giving my brother his last rights at her direction. He’s still alive, & we’re still Atheists.

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Cher630 August 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

I give so much credit to nurses – they are underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. Many doctors look down on nurses as if they aren’t good enough or smart enough…doctors spend a few minutes with the patients while the nurses are with them so much, they learn family members’ names!

Some people shouldn’t be allowed in hospitals…one of my friends had a husband who was dying. His mother was insane! I understand that her son was dying, but she would drive everyone crazy. She rubbed his back so hard, he would whimper. She yelled at the wife’s sister. Another son said that everyone should understand what his mother was going through – right in front of the wife, as if she didn’t count! The wife was ready to kick everyone out and not allow anyone in the room. I can’t say I blamed her!

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AmysAuntie August 13, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Our local hospital is kind of a grab-bag of good and bad. When my mother was there during her last illness, they were kind enough to bring in a cot for me, so I could stay with her at nights and tend to those needs that I COULD. OTOH, we had the nurses come in to tensd to her lines and turn the TV up to some sports event (at top volume) while doing so.

My own experiences in the heart wards was up-and-down as well. After one heart cath, I had the misfortune of being in a room next to a gentleman whose LARGE, LOUD family apparently was throwing a party. At one point, I felt my bed jostle and opened my eyes to see two kids, 5 or 6, running around from one side of the bed to the other, playing tag. Called the nurse, who did basically nothing because they didn’t want to upset the other patient. Next time they did it (yep, it continued), I basically YELLED (as much as I could) for them to get the dickens OUT. Judging from their response, being told NO was a totally new experience for them. Grrrrrrrrr.

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GeniusBar August 13, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Nurse of many years (36) here. With the customer service kick that so many hospitals are on management does not want us to do anything to “offend” the “customers” and/or their family members. Kicking family members out is something that one must do with extreme caution because it could result in the nurse getting written up. The nursing profession has become a nighmare in many ways and I feel very bad for those who have gone into debt to get their education, they literally don’t know what they’re in for, school cannot prepare you for the reality and disappointment of what you will encounter.

To those that say call security, at my hospital (120 beds) there is NO security at night. We can call the police or one of the random maintenance men wandering around who don’t carry phones. Honestly the stories I’ve heard here are all fairly commonplace even though they are horrible. I have stories that would curl your hair……

I personally believe a hospital stay is best if only the partner knows in addition to another immediate family member and that would be contingent on if they were a sane, reasonable person who knew how to behave and could keep their mouth closed. Telling “everyone” that you are going in for a stay can easily lead to all sorts of problems that could be avoided by secrecy up front.

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Rug Pilot August 14, 2012 at 1:02 am

I was in the hospital having major abominable surgery and requested that only people of two families be allowed to visit me, one the family I worked for and the other friends who would be involved in my after care. I was a little concerned when a man from my church rolled himself into my room to visit. He was also being treated at the same hospital. I was furious when another man came into my room who I did not want to see and he left some craggy looking flowers and attempted to find out about my medical condition while I floated in and out of consciousness. All during my recovery I was disturbed by the family of the patient next to me who had visitors of various genders and ages all wanting to keep my drape open. When I was released the man who was staying with my friends came to pick me up. The hospital noted that I was released to “family”. I have no family and they knew that. This man could have been a complete stranger and nearly was. I hope things are tighter now.

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Belly August 14, 2012 at 5:55 am

@Cat:
“She was dying peacefully right up until someone tried to put lipstick on her, and she knocked them across the room.”
Hahaha! Love it!
Never will suffer fools gladly.

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Katie August 14, 2012 at 6:19 am

I just hope that if I ever have the misfortune to be in B’s situation, I have a good nurse like the OP to take care of me. What those women were doing was intrusive and potentially highly dangerous!

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Waltzing Matilda August 14, 2012 at 6:42 am

It’s got to be hard for people who feel close to others in ICU, though. I work for a police department in Australia and we get regular email bulletins via the Commissioner’s Office letting us know that a colleague has had a baby, suffered a loss or has been hospitalised as a result of a serious accident or illness. As there are only 10,000 of us in a state three times the size of Texas, we’re one big family. However, an email came through the system today begging people to PLEASE STOP trying to visit Sergeant K who is in hospital battling an aggressive cancer. Apparently so many colleagues were taking it upon themselves to just front up at the ICU that extra security had to be brought in. This was causing considerable distress to the family. Long story short – it’s hard to strike a good balance between people who genuinely love and care for the patient wanting to express their support and giving her space to be with her immediate family and fight for her life. Not an easy one.

On a related topic, can I just vent about sticky beaks in the wards? My elderly father has occasionally been hospitalised overnight during the last few years. If it’s not serious enough to be admitted to a ward (or there isn’t a bed available) he has been kept in what they call and ‘emergency room bed’, which is a sort of screened-off cubicle inside the emergency / casualty area. Now I know it gets dull waiting around while your friend/relative/ etc is looked after, but I have a hard time dealing with relatives who go wandering around the ward poking their noses into other cubicles (which usually have the curtains closed ‘just to see what’s gong on in there’. It’s none of your damn business and is extremely distressing for the patient who is having a tube inserted, bandage applied or who just wants to try to catch a snooze. I took Mum out for a cup of tea once and came back to find Dad snoozing and a complete stranger (who wasn’t a nurse or doctor) reading his chart. Excuse Me!?

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lkb August 14, 2012 at 7:15 am

Michellep: I apologize that my previous post was unclear. My “ridiculous tangent” was meant to explain that the carers in the original post may have been — like me — vastly underqualified and unknowingly so. They probably thought they were doing the right thing, things they had been directed to do while on the job. (Though again, they should have known about be cautious around tubing and other equipment.)

I had not meant to attack nurses and charting. It’s just one small part of their very overworked jobs. (IMHO, a nursing degree is the most demanding one there is and I salute you and all nurses for the hard work you do and the training involved.)

You are fortunate that as a CNA you were never asked to do things beyond the scope of your credentials. I was. Many times. Unfortunately the hospital in my area has a very poor reputation but is the only game in town, in terms of health-care and in terms of health-care-related employment.

I guess I mentioned it in my previous post to let the non-health-care public know that just because someone works in health-care — and may be caring for your loved one — it doesn’t mean that he/she is the most knowledgeable on the care being given (in this case the carers, NOT the nurse/OP).

I am sorry for offending you. Please forgive me.

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Cat August 14, 2012 at 9:41 am

Laura, as a Catholic, I must apologize for the idiot woman and for the misguided priest. She may not have told him that the family were atheists and he may have thought the child was from a Catholic family.

He may also be rather odd-every profession has them. I once went to confession with a charismatic priest. (I am very Catholic, but not at all charismatic) and the good Father began his own version of reconciliation by shouting, “Oh, Lord, look down on this poor, miserable sinner, kneeling here in fear before You!” I was looking around, certain that he was not referring to me. It’s funny now, but that is not my relationship with my Lord and Savior.

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Corvid August 14, 2012 at 9:55 am

When people insist on “helping” in spite of being told their actions are inappropriate, such as trying to comb the hair of a person with a head wound who is unconscious in the ICU, it’s usually more about making themselves feel better than it is about caring for the ill person.

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hannah August 14, 2012 at 11:04 am

Also an ICU nurse at a large teaching hospital.

Our latest “bad family” stint involves multiple family members attempting to camp out in our ICU rooms. Our rooms are not built to house family members and thus we cannot have family members sleeping in the rooms. God forbid we should have to do an emergency procedure or even code the patient while said family members are attempting to dis-entangle themselves from the multiple IV polls, ventilator, and CRRT machine that are in the room.

/apparently I have not saved as many lives as Brockwest, however?

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Michellep August 14, 2012 at 11:11 am

@lkb, I appreciate your post and apologize for being harsh in mine. It was mostly directed at @brockwest. You sound like you were an awesome CNA, and I don’t blame you for getting out of the job. I can believe you were asked to do tasks beyond your scope, because I have heard of it happening. Maybe I was just lucky to have avoided it; but I was a CNA for a short time.

It’s a shame you left the field, because you sound like a caring person, and the healthcare field needs people like you!!

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