Monday, May 18, 2009

Do I need to know?

Last night I was assigned to the CCU for the first 4 hours of my shift as they were short a nurse and getting a post-PCI patient (heart attack that just got angioplasty) along with another ER admission.  So I took the PCI patient and did her admission.  Figured that would help and then I would turn her over to the 11pm nurse. 


She came with corrections officers.  Usually they only come with 1 but for some reason she had 2.  She wasn't unusually dangerous, it just had something to do with transportation etc.  Anyway, after I got the admission paperwork that I had to do with her done and was out at the nurse's desk doing the rest one of my coworkers asked why they were in there with her.  I said cuz she is a prisoner.  She gets all excited and asks if she is shackled to the bed etc and lots of other questions.  Then she asked the one that really got me thinking......


What is she in prison for?  I told her I had no idea.  She asked if I had asked the CO.  Nope.  Is it in her chart?  Nope.  Did you ask her?  Nope.  Don't you want to know?  NOPE.  Then she asked why.  I took a minute and thought about it.......


Isn't our judgment already a bit clouded just in knowing that she is a prisoner?  Do I really want to cloud it any more by knowing what got her there?  Instead why don't I just know that she is a person that needs my care.  Sure, she's done something that a jury of her peers and our society deemed wrong but right now she is a sick person who needs my care.  This is all I want to know.  I also know that she is appreciative of my care and is respectful and cooperative.  Why ruin that? 


I'm not saying that I have never wondered the same thing my coworker did.  I have.  I even asked once.  We had another prisoner who came in quite frequently for CHF.  After the 4th or 5th time I took care of her I finally got up the nerve to ask her.  She told me that she committed arson.  She was very ashamed about it too.  She even cried as she told me.  I knew in that moment that I never wanted to know again what someone was in prison for.  Who knows, maybe I needed her to know that I don't need to know.  Maybe without her I would still be like my coworker.  I'm blessed instead to ask myself:  Do I need to know?  and know the answer is NO everytime.



Hi Tracey, what an incredibly wise post, you show you have great skills as a nurse by not showing Judgement toward others. Great post
Kind Regards

Prairie Clover said...

I had a patient several years ago that had killed his one daughter, almost killed his other daughter then unsuccessfully tried to kill himself. I wish I had not know his circumstances when caring for him but it was all over the media.

My (physical) care for him wasn't any different then any other patient. The only difference was I could not open up and converse with him. He probably had some very deep emotional distress going on in which he needed someone unbiased to talk to.

As nurses we do not and should not have to know why a person is in prison. This is something that comes with experience and maturity. BTW, I would feel very uncomfortable asking...So, why are you in prison?

One Nurse said...

You showed great judgment by not showing judgment! In my years of being a nurse I have been suprised by the number of times I have decided to know less about personal history of my patients. It is not my job to judge them for their lifestyle or personal decisions. It is my job to care for them to the best of my ability just as I would any other patient.
I wish more nurses were like this. Great post!

ecrunner said...

Great judgment. It is not everyday that you see someone with as much respect as you. As a nurse, it is especially admiring knowing that you didn't let any judgments get in the way of your work. the stories you hear about all of this, it is inspiring.

My Playlist