Last night, for the first time in three years, I felt I was losing my patience with my patients, although I tried to remain professional and hoped I did not show it.
What brought this on? Was it the acutely confused patient who spent most of the night wandering around the ward? Was it the chap who kept crying out in pain every half an hour or so? Was it the lady who was continually incontinent? No, those are patients I enjoy looking after - encouraging and orienting the confused, comforting and helping those in pain and helping to reassure and maintain the hygiene and dignity of those who, through no fault of their own, cannot do it themselves.
My problem was one patient who just seemed to think that they were the only person who mattered. In my practice I endeavour to place the patient at the centre of everything I do, encouraging independence and patient choice wherever practicable and I always stress that I am working in cooperation with them.
With this in mind I have grown to expect my patients to cooperate with me too, understanding that I have five or so other patients that I am also responsible for. This one lady continually interrupted me in the middle of other tasks to ask for something inconsequential to be done, but then just kept on about it, so for ease of our relationship, and also to prevent disturbing others (as it was a night shift) I, for example, moved her table just so, or picked up a couple more incontinence products to add to the twelve she had already brought with her. As I say, nothing terribly important. I prioritise my actions using Siviter's (2004) 'ABCD' approach: Absolutely must do; Best do soon; Can wait; Do not worry about it. Not many daily activities are not worth worrying about, but many can wait until later.
In many ways this experience reflected real life - think of friends you'll do anything for, but then in your hour of need they do not respond in kind. Life, personal and professional, needs a little cooperation, we're all in it together.