To the A&E Staff

To the A&E Staff,

I wasn’t happy about being in Resus. Rationally, I knew why I was there and how it’s not (always) as dramatic as TV dramas make out, but I was anxious about it. At the time, I was blaming myself: being there felt like I’d let my condition get the better of me and I’d somehow failed to manage it. But the Emergency Department staff made a lot of difference that day, not just because you helped me get better.

I’ve not always had good experiences in ED in the past, largely due to my relatively rare condition. I’ve been told that it’s ‘all in my head’ and made to feel like an inconvenience. I’ve had to argue with many HCPs, trying to get someone to take me seriously. When I eventually got a diagnosis of Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency, I sometimes got reprimanded for ‘not having managed it well enough’ (it’s really tricky, in case you’re wondering). It’s hard to shake off these experiences, even if I know now that I hadn’t done anything wrong.

So, last week, I was really wound up when I was taken to Resus by the paramedics. The first thing which helped me was that everyone was really friendly. Every person who walked through Resus made eye contact with me and smiled. The Student Nurse introduced herself and told me I only had to say her name and she’d be right there with me- and she was, every time I asked, for the 3.5 hours I was there. I was obviously asked the question ‘what brought you to ED today?’, but there wasn’t even the slightest hint that it was because of something I’d ‘failed’ to do.

Instead, there was empathy. The Sister and Nurse in Charge laughed when I said that one of my ex-endocrinologists was pretty adamant I needed to make people aware that I don’t have Addison’s, saying ‘it’s as good as, he doesn’t have to put up with it every day.’ The Junior Doctor said ‘this has really changed your life hasn’t it, it must be tough to manage’. I felt that people were concerned as to what would happen to me once I left A&E, as in, they wanted to make sure they ran labs and tests that would perhaps help my (wonderful) endocrinologist establish what else might be causing me problems, not just those which would help me temporarily. I’ve never really had that before- I sometimes feel like I’m ‘treated and streeted’ as quickly as possible, or moved to a ward to become ‘someone else’s problem’. There was a ‘bigger picture’ mentality.

Instead of being dismissed like I have been in the past, the Sister asked me to explain my condition to help her and the students. The Junior Doctor ordered an X-Ray after listening to what I said about my chest. The (slightly scary) SHO went and found his Medical Consultant rather than just telling me I was wrong and that he was right. I felt reassured that other people were in charge so I didn’t have to be, but that they’d ask if they weren’t sure. I felt like my voice mattered.

Everything was effectively communicated, which sounds basic, but it doesn’t always happen. The Radiographer could have quite easily sorted the X-Ray and vanished, (like here), but he paused for a chat. A HCA brought my husband to me when he arrived, but still took the time to introduce herself and ask if I was ok.

The students and Nurses had an almost sixth sense- one of them would ‘appear’ when I felt worse but hadn’t said anything, or they’d arrive right before the pressure cuff started to inflate to do my obs. The Nurse in Charge was omnipresent and knew about all of her patients in detail. I felt completely cared for even when there wasn’t anyone physically with me.

I was treated with dignity throughout. When in hospital, I try to do things like getting dressed and going to the toilet myself- I’m stubborn, basically- but I wasn’t able to manage it that day. The student nurses were great: they stopped me feeling humiliated and calmed the ‘this is not happening, I refuse to let this happen‘ anger/panic I was feeling. They chatted to me, making jokes with me about their day (and my odd socks). The Consultant had to wait to see me while I was being helped, and he apologised if it had caused me any anxiety- never had that before.

I felt like the staff were ‘with me’ all the way. I didn’t feel like I was a patient number, I felt like a person. There was humour and reassurance when I needed it. The Nurse in Charge ‘celebrated’ with me when I was moved from Resus to Majors, like we’d achieved something. It felt like a weight had lifted, not just because I was feeling better, but because I felt like I wasn’t dealing with the situation by myself anymore, and there was a whole team sharing the responsibility with me instead.

In my previous A&E admissions, I’ve found individuals who have given fantastic care, but I’ve never felt as supported by an entire team as I did last week- it was the best care I’ve ever had in an ED. You helped me feel better, but not just physically, you did wonders for my mental wellbeing and the way I feel about my condition too.

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