I was fascinated to see in an NT news story quote: “In my theatre, I had a guy who was blown up with an IED, and the guy on the next table was supposed to be the guy who detonated the IED. That’s really difficult. But… you treat them no different.”
Because of course, as nurses, we treat all our patients the same, don’t we?
But it got me thinking. Do we never let our prejudices or our knowledge of the person’s background interfere with how we think about them?
As an ex- mental health nurse I’ve met my fair share of unsavoury characters. Frequently I nursed patients with long and complex forensic backgrounds and, more than once, convicted paedophiles and rapists.
Although I could see that offering my nursing skills may go some way to helping with rehabilitation, I couldn’t help but feel that I was somehow betraying the victims of these horrific crimes by helping the perpetrators. I like to think that this in no way influenced my treatment but I can’t say I considered every patient with “unconditional positive regard”, whether it showed or not.
On the other hand, being aware of these feelings can help you to overcome them. Every nurse can sympathise with the situation of having a patient who is rude or ungrateful, patients who we would rather someone else treated. Rather than doing what needs to be done as quickly as possible, I’ve known nurses who will take their time to make sure they’re not offering that patient poorer quality care than they would someone else.
But knowing that one of the people you are treating detonated the bomb that injured another person you’re also treating must at least cross your mind. On some level, would you see one person as less deserving of treatment?
After all, we’re only human. Our own opinions are always going to change how we think about a person, but do they change how we treat them?
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve struggled to remain impartial?