Heaven forbid, you shouldn’t need to be hospitalized any time soon. But if you are, points out Shukan Post (Nov 16), it’s a given that in the course of your stay, you’ll spend the greatest amount of time not with a physician or your family members, but with nurses.
The capability of these nurses may have a profound impact on your longevity, because the way these angels in white perform their jobs is, more often than not, a reflection on the quality of the hospital as a whole.
The first thing you need to know, the article points out is that hospitals in this country are suffering from a chronic shortage of competent nursing staff—to the degree that hospital wards have been closed and the number of sickbeds reduced.
This situation has created a seller’s market for good nurses, and their presence or absence can be a key factor in determining the quality of care patients receive, and sometimes even how long they might live.
One patent related what happened to him following surgery, when he developed a sudden pain in his abdomen.
“My attending physician muttered, ‘He seems to have developed side effects to the medication.’ But the veteran nurse standing beside him said, ‘Sensei, might it not be side effects, but complications from the surgery? Maybe we should take X-rays of areas other than from his abdomen.’
“Her diagnosis proved right and they took quick measures. If she hadn’t been there, I wonder how I would have wound up,” he remarked.
Azusa Miyako, an author also currently employed as a nurse, says such things occur frequently: “Surprisingly, specialists in a certain field don’t know much about other fields,” she says. “It’s a fact that lots of veteran nurses have extensive knowledge, and one of their most important functions is that if a patient’s condition changes, they can take one look and figure out what needs to be done, even it it’s outside the attending physician’s field of expertise.”
Another man tells Shukan Post of how, when his 80-year-old father became demoralized after a stroke and refused to undergo rehabilitation, the nurse was able to coax him out of bed by saying, “Don’t you want to be able to go for a walk with your grandchild?” Eventually the old man was up and walking again.
“She was still young, but she was very caring,” the man recalls fondly.
Unfortunately some nurses can make things even worse.
“The nurse assigned to a patient hospitalized for stomach ulcers always appeared fatigued and irritable, snapping orders at him,” a hospital worker relates. “His condition worsened and he began vomiting blood, and surgery was required. Another time, when a patient who was hard of hearing asked his nurse to speak louder, she became infuriated at him, and he suffered apoplexy.”
Problems can also arise if a nurse seems too attentive to one patient, spurring other patients to feel they are not receiving the same treatment. Rivalry between nurses, instead of teamwork, can also lead to friction.
“I like to see smiles from nurses at the nurse station,” says the aforementioned Miyako. “While some people might get annoyed because they feel this is indiscreet behavior, with me it’s the reverse. I think that smiling on the job serves as proof they’re well composed, and it shows they’re doing their best while maintaining a cheerful spirit, even in a severe environment.”
An accompanying sidebar provides helpful advice from insiders for patients or their families who might be considering a show of appreciation to nurses by presenting them with gifts. The rules strictly prohibit cash presents, but a box of chocolates or other items that they can share with their colleagues at the nurse station, on the other hand, are likely to be welcomed. “Even more than gifts, we like to receive a short letter or postcard from patients after they’re discharged,” Miyako says. “It doesn’t even have to mention nurse care—we just like to hear from them.”