Every therapist in the world will tell you not to talk about things when you are upset, or emotional. I tend to work with this philosophy 90% of the time.
This post is part of that other 10%.
Today while I was cruising Facebook I came across a mess of memes posted by some nurses sharing “nurse humor”. Among these memes were a few that I found extremely disappointing;
“Oh, you’re asking for Dilaudid by name? Tell me more about your drug addiction.”
“You seem pretty scared of catching the flu for someone who’s not remotely scared of catching STD’s.”
Another one is two parts, with the top image of a woman on the phone filing her nails that says “My pain is 10/10.” The bottom photo is grumpy cat in a nurse hat saying “no.”
The fourth is a boy with his eyes half open that says “Patients be like ‘These pain meds ain’t doing shit.”
These memes you guys, are the very root of what is wrong with the relationship between the providers and the patients. They drip of judgement and condescension. The defense for these was that they are just a joke. That a nurse’s job is dark and difficult at times and they need a way to blow off steam.
I don’t doubt that a nurse’s job is hard. My mom has been in hospice care for as long as I can remember. She cares for every patient, and mourns them when they go. I don’t know how her heart handles breaking that many times but she does it with grace every time. Nurses get yelled at, shoved, and pooped, puked, peed and spit on. It takes a special breed to be able to handle it all and I’m not discounting that. But your end of this relationship is not the only difficult one, dear nurses.
We spend hours of our lives in hospitals and clinics. We go through the wringer over and over again just to find a way to end our pain and along the way we learn some things. We learn what medications help our pain and what doesn’t. We learn what makes us sick, and what makes us sleepy. We learn how to help ourselves.
↑And this joke? This joke to blow off steam that indicates, quite clearly, that if I know enough about a medication to ask for it by name that I am a drug addict is exactly what makes us terrified to ask for anything. The thoughts expressed in these memes are why we don’t talk about our illnesses with our friends, our families, even our providers. The overwhelming fear of being judged by everyone else for taking medications that come with such a stigma is debilitating for us.
↑This one in particular hits home for me on many levels. When I was in the hospital for my Trachelectomy I had to stay overnight. In recovery I remember laying in my bed in agony. I told the nurse helping me that I was in a lot of pain. She said that they had already given me something for pain, and that if I hadn’t been on pain medication at home I wouldn’t be in so much pain now.
So after blaming the difficulty of managing my pain on me for taking pain meds at home, she eluded to the fact that I was going to have to suffer. No. Just because I am not opiate naïve doesn’t mean you can’t manage my pain, it just takes a little more to get me there. This isn’t my fault, it’s just the situation at hand. Your job isn’t to judge me, it’s to help me.
On the way from the recovery room to my overnight room the staff pushing my bed hit a few bumps, then the side of the elevator, then the door frame on the way into my room. I thought my husband was going to flip they banged me around so much. And I hurt, man did I hurt so badly and all the jostling didn’t help. I had tubes coming out of me all over, my vagina was packed full like a turkey on Thanksgiving with stitches deep inside and I was dying. 10 out of 10. First time in my life I said it to a provider. The nurse looked at me laying perfectly still and calm in my bed, no tears, no moaning, just a few simple words. “I am at a 10.”
The nurse said “You just need a minute to get situated after the move, we’ve already given you something for pain in recovery.” She wasn’t going to do anything for me. She didn’t believe me, because I didn’t look like I was in agony. Thank God (seriously) that my husband spoke up and said that I was indeed, in that much pain because otherwise I would not have gotten the meds I needed in that moment. So as you can imagine, seeing that nurse’s judgement displayed in color as a way to blow off steam on Facebook struck a nerve. It’s not funny, it’s not a joke, and it’s harmful to the treatment of every patient who is in pain.
Every time those pictures get shared, or liked, or posted it enforces the idea that yes, if a patient asks for meds by name they are addicts. It perpetuates the stigma around painkillers as nothing more than medications that addicts and junkies use. And if the very people who care for you on a professional level can say it, why couldn’t your friends or family? If the nurse who is starting your IV and giving you your pain meds can say that you’re an addict, why wouldn’t your family think so too?
How about this one? The indication here is that the patient looks cooked on pain meds, but they are claiming they aren’t helping. Well, unless you somehow managed to climb inside my body to verify that I am, indeed, not feeling pain I suggest you get off your high horse, find some compassion and help me manage my pain. Again, this meme discredits the patient and assumes they only want medication to get high. It comes back to how the patient looks rather than what the patient is telling you they are feeling.
This one isn’t necessarily related to pain patients, it’s just disgusting. The indication being that the patient is not practicing safe sex, or has had multiple sexual partners. There isn’t anything to this meme except pure judgement about the patient’s personal life. Unless the patient has asked you for your advice or opinion about their personal life it’s off limits. We don’t come to the hospital and look at you and judge your personal choices, so who are you to judge ours?
When you take a position in the medical field you take an oath to “Do no harm”. These memes are doing just that. You’re jokes are doing harm and honestly if you need to tear down your patients to get through the day I think you probably need a new profession.