Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Platitudes Can Work

When you have an intensive care patient that is sedated and ventilated to care for, the constant "BING BONG" alarm sounds of the many pumps,drips,syringe drivers, ventilator and monitor can be nerve shattering to an already anxious and highly charged set of relatives and friends,
Couple this fact with the ingrained anxiety of monitor watching ( how many tv dramas have we all sat through when the hero's cardiac tracing suddenly "flatlines" with a sickening eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee) and there is no wonder that most visitors often look like rabbits caught in a tractor's headlights.

Before I take any family members in to see their critically sick relative, I always give them the old "air hostess" pep talk. 
In very general terms I liken a trip to intensive care to flying for the first time
New flyers will jump and panic at every new noise and bump on their first flight  and will generally look to the stewardess' for reassurance and guidance.

"If the stewardess looks unconcerned and calm, there is nothing to worry about on board
If the nurse looks unconcerned when the monitor or pumps alarm, the same rules apply
Look at your nurse!"

Reducing anxiety with clear information before you face a potential trauma isn't rocket science.... in fact it was the first "research based" intervention I learnt as a a student nurse some thirty years ago....and the reason I have posted about it this morning is because of a chance meeting with a woman at the traffic lights in Prestatyn at 7am this morning!

I had just dropped Chris off at the station when I pulled up at the lights and I caught the eye of a woman in a car opposite who smiled and waved. She wound down the window  and mouthed "hello" and because I looked fairly confused at who she was, she added !" I am Harry Jenkins'* daughter" 
I still must have looked a little confused as although I vaguely recognised her I still could not place her
so she added just before she drove off with a hand point and a smile 
Ah one of "my relatives" I realised as I drove off.

*not his real name


  1. How lovely, it's a fitting tribute to the wonderful care you gave to her father x x
    P.s I personally at the moment feel it is easier to medicate a sick person than a sick Chicken, wriggley the buggers that they are !! Thankyou for yet again coming to my rescue, you are truly my Hen Hero x x x

  2. anytime greta
    remember I usually always have some antibiotics hidden away if you need the in a hurry!
    hope the little gal survives

  3. Apropos air hostesses. Once when I flew to China on Chinese airlines, there was no safety talk at all (this was in around 1984), and one of the passengers asked one of the hostesses why there had been no safety drill. She looked quizzical and then replied, "we crash, you die."

  4. pat
    I had a similar experience when I flew into Prague many years ago.... the stewardess just waved her hands generally and went "pifft" during the safety demonstration

  5. That sounds like a very calming analogy. Well done you!

  6. The three weeks I spent with the kid's dad in ITU in 1987 were the most difficult of our lives. I cannot thank enough or describe the gratitude our family has for the support of the nurses. Their faces are etched on my memory for ever. Steve was in hospital(s) for 5 months initially (much more over the years). I love the NHS, nurses are very special people. I imagine relatives are much harder to deal with than patients.

  7. Indeed, well done you.

    All the airlines down this way seem to have adopted pre-recorded safety messages.
    This is a real shame because a hostie I caught a few times had the most fantastic sense of humour that had the bulk of the passengers guffawing out loud.

  8. I think the air hostess analogy you use is very apt and it's a notion that ought to be used in nurse training. An air of calmness and control is both professional and vital even when there may be panic or serious concern under the outward veneer. If I were ever in intensive care I'd like you to be my nurse - but no bad baths please!

  9. do wonders for the reputation of the she goes home and says she saw that wonderful nurse who looked after her father..

  10. note
    more like
    "I saw that old queen that thinks he's an air hostess!"

  11. yp
    I am a dab hand with a wet sponge

  12. Another reason why we love you!
    Jane x

  13. Anonymous1:44 pm

    The word is spreading. Before too long everyone in Wales will feel comfortable going to the ICU to visit because they will have heard the 'air hostess' story.

  14. I can’t say enough good things about ICU and ER nurses. My mother passed away in June. A couple of years ago she had heart valve surgery to replace one valve and repair two others at Duke University Medical. The nurses were angels as well as her surgeon. After a few little bumps and a couple more trips back she had been doing excellent, but unfortunately she had to take Coumadin. She suffered a brain hemorrhage and after valiant efforts at our local hospital ER she was flown to a larger hospital but the damage was unrecoverable. I had spent many hours with her watching all those monitors the last couple of years and had became quite knowledgeable, so I new when the end was near. In all my experience I have never come across a rude and uncaring nurse though some were a little better than others. It is a calling and bless those that that are called for that profession for they all are very special just like you! Blessings to you!

  15. My mother was critically ill in hospital about 4 years ago. Wish she had nurses (and doctors) like you. Thankfully, she pulled through, but we could have used an air hostess! Bing bong. Bing bong.

  16. A "relative". I like that. I remember ICU, the tubes, stainless steel machines, the sounds my body made. Nurses were quite reassuring when I asked if I'd been turned into an espresso machine. I can't remember all of them, but yes, they're my "relatives" too!

  17. It's wonderful to have a nurse in the critical care ward who never loses the sense of terror the environment causes to people who do not see it day by day. I've been in critical care several times and while hooked up to every imaginable device, tubes in and out of my body, three IV's, oxygen, Telemetry unit monitoring, etc., I can see the look of horror on their face. Having a nurse to prep some of the visitors was nice. I coded at 33 years of age (am now 44) and because of my WONDERFUL nurses, I am still here today. It was a full-blown Addison's Crisis with cardio-thoracic surgery to follow and more. So NOT fun.


  18. She must have had a very positive experience because of your calming presence. Way to go!

  19. I think it's wonderful that you want to give them the air hostess pep talk before they see their loved one in the ICU.

    For the one and to date only hospital stay since my birth, when i fell and broke my leg, no one seemed to understand that i really hadn't a clue. When a nurse came in to look after my roommate (a fall risk who kept thinking she was home, would awake abruptly, go to get out of bed to use the loo, and set off what sounded like a car alarm), she walked over to my bed after the 5th or so time and asked if i were all right.

    I nodded, asked for some water, and she asked why i didn't page her. When i told her i didn't know how, she was stunned. The red button was the call button. It wasn't labelled, so how would i know? I told her i really could have used the 50-cent tour rather than the 5-cent one, and thanked her. She smiled at that and i said i was sure she never gave it a thought as it was elemental for her, but for people like me who are hospital patients once every 45 years or so, it's a whole new world.

  20. I could have done with your helpful info before I sat through the death of my Mum! But when my Dad-in-law passed, I knew exactly what was going on with that damn monitor, and was able to explain it to Gordon.

  21. Have a great Thursday, John. ♥

  22. No surprise to most John that you do leave a lasting impression!

  23. Yes, the good people we turn to in our moments of medical panic do become burned into our memories--doctors, nurses, priests, caring neighbors...

    To add to the stories of caring nurses, I will always be amazed by and grateful for those who worked on my dad's transplant wing. Even though I could only visit a couple times a month (he was in there over 6 mos), they knew me by name, where I lived, that I was a teacher, etc. They understood the importance of the family as support system. They even arranged a special (and probably illegal) anniversary dinner for my parents in a conference room right there on the wing.

    So, yeah...there are many people out there who will never forget you. (Especially in that natty uniform with the short skirt.)

  24. are you sure you didn't mean "Ding Dong"?

    Ding Dong

  25. I wish you'd been around when I was in intensive care after my spinal surgery. My poor partner is still in shock from seeing Cape Canaveral behind me a year later!

  26. For 30 days I sat by my husband in the critical care unit as all those machines made their noises. I spent many hours staring at those monitors. It was those wonderful nurses that got both me and him through. It has been 11 years, but I will never forget the faces of those wonderful people who gave care and strength to me during those dark days. You are all such special people.

  27. That's an excellent way of reassuring nervous visitors. I've never been a hospital in-patient but if I ever am I'm sure I'll be terrified by all the medical paraphenalia. I'm ultra-sensitive to strange noises as it is.


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