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The Primary Nurse: A Lifeline For You And Your Hospitalized Loved One

7 ways to get more attention for your family member.

By Martine Ehrenclou, M.A.

Whether your loved one is in the ICU, Cardiac Wing, Med Surg or another section of the hospital, his or her primary nurse is their lifeline as well as your own. Most people think that the patient’s doctor is the go-to person for just about anything regarding the patient’s hospital medical care. And he or she is. But what many don’t know is just how important this other medical professional is to the wellbeing and safety of the patient. The primary nurse is the only person who knows what is going on with the patient 24/7 and the only person who can respond to the patient’s needs beside the physician.

"The primary nurse is the only person who knows what’s going on with the patient 24/7 and the only person who can respond to the patient’s needs besides their physician."

7 Ways To Get More Attention For Your Hospitalized Loved One

     
  1. If you want more attention for your loved one, then begin by establishing a relationship with the patient’s primary nurse. Treat him or her with respect and show appreciation. Even if he or she has not responded to the call button in a timely manner, hold your tongue and be polite. Most nurses are overworked and asked to care for too many sick patients. Remind yourself that this person is there to fully care for your loved one in a way that you cannot.
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  3. Get involved. Ask how you can help with care for the patient. Offer to bring your loved one ice chips, walk them down the hall, get them out of bed, massage their feet, help them eat. Anything you can do to show that you are an involved family member will enhance hospital medical care for the patient. Patients with involved loved ones get more attention.
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  5. Be careful to tell hospital workers apart. Nurses and hospital techs dress alike. If you request pain medication for the patient, make sure you make your request of the patient’s primary nurse. No other nurse will do. If their name is not up on a board in the patient’s room, ask for it. Write it down. There will be a new primary nurse during the day and another at night. Sometimes nurses work three day shifts, and a new nurse will be on shift every day. That’s three different names and faces to remember per day.
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  7. Humanize the patient. The more the primary nurse can see your loved one as a person with a story, with a history, with family and friends, the more attention your loved one will get. Nurses see patients all day long, week after week, and it is normal for them to become somewhat immune to the suffering they see. They have to in order to cope with their job. You want the patient’s primary nurse to see your loved one as a human being, not as the liver cancer patient in room 209. A personal connection can promote better hospital medical care.
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  9. Inform the primary nurse about the patient’s health, from allergies to medications, bad habits that might affect their care, health problems the patient has had in the past, what medications have been most effective. Share your current observations of the patient as well. You know the patient, whereas the primary nurse may be meeting your loved one for the first time.
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  11. If you or your loved one has a problem with your loved one’s primary nurse, talk to the nurse directly about the problem. As your first step, do not go over his or her head. If the issue cannot be resolved, simply find the nurse supervisor and explain the problem. You can ask that another primary nurse be assigned to your loved one’s case.
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  13. Bring cookies, candy and healthy snacks to the primary nurses who take care of your loved one. Most nurses are saints and most love their work and not many receive appreciation from family members. They are doing an extremely important job. They are not servants. Bring a basket of treats with a thank you note from you referring to the patient’s name. In fact, attach an open face thank you card permanently to the basket. There is a reason for this: That basket will be placed on the nursing station counter and if the card is separated from the basket, all medical staff will help themselves to the goodies from you, not knowing who they are from. If you attach the card, then whoever eats the cookies will see yours and the patient’s name.