Mar. 22, 2017

The One Bad Patient

At some point in your nursing career, there will be that one patient you will want to strangle. For me, it was over 25 years ago. I cannot remember her last name because we all knew who she was. Like Madonna and Elvis, she only needed a first name.

I can laugh about it now, but at the time, I had walked away from her many of times. When I say, “walked away,” I mean I walked out of the building, away from her.

This woman, Patient M, was so bad; there was a big note written in red in her chart that we, nor she, were ever to contact her son unless it was to inform him of her death and her death alone.

He confided to some of the staff that he could not stand his mother so much that he had moved across the United States to get away from her. When she followed, he moved back to South Carolina. Again, she followed so he convinced her that she was an invalid and incapable of caring for her. That's when Patient M came to stay with us (what did we ever do to him?).

The first couple of weeks she called him day and night. I don’t mean once or twice, I mean several calls throughout the day and night. Even though he had his number changed, some of the staff would give her the number and the overbearing abuse would begin again. 

One night he finally called his mother and told her he’d joined the Army and was now a POW. The commander of the POW camp was nice enough to let him call his mother one last time to say goodbye. That was the last time he’d spoken to his mom before she passed away … three years later.

Yes, for three years we had to put up with her overbearing ways. When up in her chair, her routine was, she would follow us up and down the hall yelling, “Nurse! Nurse!”

When we asked what she wanted she’d stop, think and say, “I forgot now.”

That went on non-stop. Even when she was in bed, she would keep the call light on. We’d go in the room and turn it off and while we were standing there talking to her, she would turn it back on again. The CNA’s started hiding it from her.

That didn’t stop her. She took to hollering from her bed, “Nurse! Nurse!” We were not supposed to take the call light from the patients, but I would always look the other way.

She hollered, “Nurse! Nurse!” all night one night, that by the morning, she was literally so hoarse she couldn‘t speak. Day shift thanked me.

The nurse who lived across the street called me around 3 A.M. and said, “I just took the trash outside. I kept hearing someone call for a nurse and thought I was sleepwalking. Is that Patient M I hear?”

“Yes it is! Can I send her to your house?” I begged.

There was no appeasing her, either. When we answered her calls she wanted the blankets pulled down, then pulled up, then down again. She wanted water, ice, the AC on, the AC off, back on. It was constant. If we got close to her, she would scratch us, bite us, kick us, anything she could to physically abuse the staff.

One night, I was almost in tears over her never-ending abuse and whiny “nurse, nurse,” calls when I overheard a nursing assistant threatening to beat the shit out of her. I pulled the CNA aside and spoke with her. I could completely understand her direction, but nonetheless, I could not condone it. 

Patient M was the one patient I could not bear. I almost quit nursing because of her. I'm glad I stuck with it though. I have a lot of fond memories that rule out the one bad patient.