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#HAWMC: Day 27, "Bye, bye, bye..."

CHALLENGE: Bye, bye, bye... Living with an illness, you are more likely to face people who don't understand your daily struggles. Sometimes these people can be inconsiderate and hurtful. Have you ever wanted to tell them how you really feel, but didn't feel like you were able to? Now is your chance! Write an open letter to the people who have hurt you. What would you say to them? What lessons would you like them to learn? #HAWMC
To the Discourteous Nurses in the Specimen Lab:

Firstly, let me say that I am not a nurse. I have never been nor do I have any desire to become a nurse. I do not think I would have the stomach to do the things that you do on a daily basis.

Not only do you have to deal with sticking people with needles, collecting urine samples and people coughing in your faces, but you also have to deal with sick, unruly patients. Honestly, I don't know how you do it.

What you do is valuable. You help people and I respect that. I appreciate the hardships and struggles you've gone through to get where you are. Nursing is not easy. Thank you for all you do.

I am writing to you because of an incident that occurred in February of 2011. I had been in the office where you work on several occasions. On this particular day, I brought a "stool sample" with me.

My doctor had already sent the sample to the lab just before directing me to the back to have my blood drawn.

I felt like garbage. I hate needles. I hate doctors. I hate having to hand over stool samples. And don't get me started on waiting rooms! Despite all this, I have never been less than polite and kind. I am a "smiler" by nature and probably greeted with you a large, friendly grin.

I sat down in the chair for my blood draw and patiently waited while one of you went through the rounds to collect a vial or two of blood.

I watched nervously as a second nurse put her hand into a brown paper bag that contained a jar of a thick, dark red substance. To my utter horror, she exclaimed loudly in disgust.

"What's that?" asked the first nurse looking greedily curious.

"A stool sample!" the second nurse mouthed rather audibly.

I looked to my right and was completely mortified when I noticed another man in the room awaiting his turn for a blood draw. He was also watching the horrific scene unfold.

"OH MY GOD!" said the first nurse. "Whose is it?!"

The second nurse replied with the name, quietly.

After a few more seconds of examining the "offending" specimen, the first nurse returned to me and continued what she began.

"What's your name?" she asked before sticking me.

Reluctantly, and ashamedly, I gave it to her.

The silence was so thick, you could have cut it with a knife.

Yes, ladies. That was my blood-clot excuse of a stool sample. Thanks.

I was embarrassed and humiliated. I felt dirty and disgusting. I had been sick for about a month and I feared the worst. Your reactions did not put my fears at ease; they made them that much worse.

Honestly, it's not about the fact that it was my stool sample. It was the fuss you made over it. It could have been another person's sample; that still wouldn't make what you did "ok."

So you have to deal with a sick person's poop, vomit or urine. You are the one who chose this profession. If nursing school has taught you anything it should have taught you to be more tactful and considerate when you're dealing with a person's private, embarrassing medical problems. You ought to know better. You ought to act like the professionals you're supposed to be. Shame on you.

I am sure hundreds, perhaps thousands of patients have passed through your clinic by now. You have long since forgotten the girl with the bloody stool sample that you humiliated in front of a stranger. But she has not forgotten.

Sadly, too many chronically ill patients deal with rude, unruly medical "professionals" who practice poor bedside manners and do not have the decency to treat them as fellow human beings.

Don't get me wrong! There are many great, compassionate doctors and nurses out there who love what they do and work hard to make their patients feel valuable and comfortable (I know several.). That being said, there's a great disconnect going on between patient and caregiver right now.

Far too many patients are being belittled, ignored, neglected and talked down to. Stop treating us as subjects, symptoms or numbers. We are living, breathing human beings who deserve just as much respect as you do. Behavior such as what you have exhibited is unacceptable. It does not build our confidence or trust in your expertise or abilities to help us. This kind of behavior only serves to push us further away and makes us put up stronger walls of defense. Eventually we may stop listening to you or withholding information from you... we might even go so far as mistrusting you enough to stop our treatments. We'll be afraid of you--or worse--resent you. All the while the gap between us continues growing and festering.

Again, I have a lot of respect for what you do day in and day out, but please, for the love of all things good, conduct yourself in a more caring and respectful manner. Not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your patients, too!


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