I should know. I’ve been a nurse for nine years. I come from a “nursing family”. Both parents. An aunt and a cousin. I’m surrounded.
Nurses think they know better than the doctors. In some cases that is true. But nurses often don’t follow their doctors orders when it comes to resting, taking their medication as ordered, and getting consults and other treatments like PT and OT. We love to self diagnose and we don’t know how to stop being a nurse and start being a patient.
- Medication. Nurses are notorious for not taking their medication or taking it differently as ordered. For me personally, I constantly forget to refill my meds, or I “wing it” and take half or skip a dose or tinker with my dosages. Why? Because I have the knowledge of what will and will not kill me.
- Rest. What is that? Nurses are used to “pushing through” pain, illness, fatigue. Despite the risk, nurses will push through colds, viruses etc because they don’t want to leave their friends short shifted. You have to be literally bed ridden to miss work. Earlier this year I worked through severe eye issues because I knew that covering my rural territory (about 50 mile radius) would suck for anyone filling in for me. I went to work the next day after having steroid injections TO MY EYEBALL. A needle was inserted into my eye and it hurt like hell but I went to work the next day.
- Ignoring treatment recommendations. PT or OT? Hell, I’ll exercise my knee at home. I’ve seen so-and-so from PT do Mrs. Johnson’s PT a dozen times by now, I could do it in my sleep. Hey, that’s not a bad idea. Consult? I’ll just ask Dr. Smith the pulmonologist what he thinks of my situation the next time I see him in the cafeteria. Sound familiar? I rest my case.
- Self diagnosis. We know how to assess, that can work for or against us. I personally admit to using my own stethoscope to assess my lungs. They are clear, by the way. My heart rate is tachy and irregular, however. And has been for weeks. No bueno. So as a nurse I automatically run down the list of things it can possibly be. As a nurse I automatically think the worst thing possible…the sarcoid is in my heart…I’ll need a defibrillator. Or worse, I’ll need a heart transplant. When in reality it might just be medication related.
- When self diagnosis works — last year my daughter lovingly gave me a concussion. She bonked her hard head into my chin and I saw stars. I didn’t black out and hit the deck, but I did sleep for 18 hours straight. When I woke up the next day, I knew enough to get to the ER and the concussion was confirmed.
- Take off the nursing cap!! This happens at doctor’s appointments. They all know I’m a nurse. Which can make doctors lazy. They figure “I don’t have to go over this piece of education with her because she’s a nurse, she should know this”. Well, I’m not a nurse that works in rheumatology or neurology, or psychology. Please give me the same education you would give to any other patient. I will not consider it condescending, I have a lot floating in my brain with this condition and reinforcing the education will go a LONG way in making sure I’m doing the right thing.
- Nurse + Internet = paranoia. Nurses also know how to find more specific information. I know how to search the web for studies and professional articles for my condition. BAD IDEA. It only depresses me. I know how to read medical jargon, research articles, anecdotal evidence. It scares the hell out of me.
So I vow to be a better patient. I will call my meds in on time, I will keep my head on straight, follow doctor’s orders and stay off pubmed. I will walk the fine line of being a patient and being a nurse. Not too paranoid, not to lax.