How do you react when you are a nurse and your child is a patient? How do you react when you are a legal nurse consultant and used to seeing all of the bad outcomes of care?
Our adult son became ill and called us at 11:45 PM to tell us he was having trouble breathing and wanted to go to the hospital. I experienced firsthand what it is like to seek treatment in the middle of the night. I kept one part of my brain in observation mode and my mouth shut about who I was and my legal nurse consulting practice.
When your child is a patient in the ED
There was no nurse doing triage at 1 AM. When the clerk asked us what was wrong, I said my son was having trouble breathing. Another patient sitting with the clerk immediately jumped up and said our son was more important than what she was doing.
When no one came to see our son for 15 minutes, I again asked for a nurse. The other patient got a bit loud and said, “Isn’t anyone worried about him?”
After another 10 minutes a nurse came, looked at him, and 5 minutes later she moved him into treatment area. Why weren’t we making noise? We were with him, trying to keep him calm and settled.
When your child is a patient you use your nursing knowledge to navigate the system and to make sense of what is happening.
A guy who introduced himself as Tom came in after about an hour with a stethoscope around his neck. I figured out from how he was talking that he was the doctor.
Tom was concerned about my son’s breathing and sent him for a CT scan and ultrasound. He had to lay flat for 30 minutes for this trip, and came back to the ER gasping.
We found out our son was being admitted when a doctor came in and said she was the admitting doctor, also called the HO, which I guessed meant “house officer”. As we waited for the admission process to start, we heard a child about 2 years old who was having the most dreadful painful thing done to him about 4 AM. It is amazing how loud and how long a small child can cry.
While the house officer was in with our son we returned to the lobby. A woman hobbled in on crutches. I settled the woman into a wheelchair as there was no one else around except the clerk. The patient asked me, “Do you work here or are you just a nice person?”
The ER nurse who assisted our son had a masters in nursing administration but loved being a staff nurse (and it showed) and was very gentle with our frightened son.
When your child is a patient you observe and take actions. The care in the ED was not awful. It seemed to take a long time for our son to be moved through the steps towards admission. He was waiting for bed when we left at 7 AM.
Our son had pneumonia and hepatitis from eating a contaminated cucumber; his sputum cultures grew streptococcus. He was on IV antibiotics for 4 days and had a temperature as high as 104.5. After a week in the hospital, he came home with us for a week until he could breathe while lying flat and was eating.
It is always interesting and sometimes way too frightening to be a nurse when your child is a patient.