I spent the last two days in a hospital in northern Israel with my mother, who just underwent hip replacement surgery.
I’m grateful that this kind of medical procedure is available. At the same time, I really struggle with a certain attitude exhibited by staff towards patients and I’ve seen all too often.
Simply put – too many nurses aren’t kind to their patients. They are brusque, impatient, rude and sometimes downright mean.
After hearing the elderly woman in my mother’s room on the other side of the curtained partition repeatedly saying something in an agitated way and not hearing anyone respond (she was speaking Russian and I didn’t understand what she said), I went to get help for her from the nurses station.
Her iv had come out, and the staff came in to replace it while loudly chiding her. Apparently she was disoriented as a result of the post surgical anesthesia. A short time later they had to replace it again, because in her confused state she had pulled it out again.
A short while later the staff had finished and my mother had gone to sleep. I continued to hear the woman repeatedly asking for something in Russian but no one was responding. Finally I went over to her side of the curtain and began speaking to her soothingly in English. As I thought about how she must be feeling, I put my hands gently on each side of her face and as I looked into her eyes told her I know it was hard for her to be in the hospital, to be in pain and alone and frightened.
She continued to talk to me, and while I didn’t understand what she was asking, I gave her what I could – my presence and compassion.
She became more calm, and I continued to sit with her. I stroked her arm and told her she was safe, that it wouldn’t be long before she could go home and be with people who loved her. As I took her hand in mine she gripped it like a vise, with a palpable sense of desperation. I almost cried when I then saw that that each of her hands had been tied to the bed rails so she couldn’t move (presumably to prevent her from taking out her iv in her disoriented state).
She became more and more relaxed and after twenty minutes she fell into a deep sleep. Even in her sleep, she didn’t want to let go of my hand. Finally I loosened her grip and she continued to sleep peacefully through the night.
So often we’re in such a rush that we end up creating more work for ourselves.
What if the Russian speaking nurses had spoken to this patient kindly when she first expressed her distress, instead of yelling at her?
I know, you’re probably thinking, “But they don’t have the time!” It’s true, they have a lot to do. Maybe too much to do. Nurses are notoriously overworked. And taking this kind of time isn’t part of their job description.
However, even when looking at this from a time management perspective (not from an emotional or holistic healing perspective), the most effective thing those nurses could have done is to have spent several minutes letting the woman know they cared about her and were there to take care of her. In their rush to get things done, her anxiety went up, her agitation grew and twice they needed to bring in three staff members to hold her down, reinsert the iv and change the sheets (since blood had dripped on them). In the end it would have saved them time and frustration.
This is true with parenting, too. Whether a child is screaming, seems out of control or is balking at taking direction from us, there’s a tendency to want to lay down the law, to insist they do what we want and to do it NOW. There’s a perception that taking time to connect or to understand, will make one’s hectic life even more busy – and there’s just not enough time for everything. So how can a busy parent make time to slow down and connect?
The answer comes from understanding that when it comes to people, fast is slow and slow is fast. You can be efficient with things, but you can’t be efficient with people. You need to be effective with people.
Effectiveness is relationships means making connection a priority. When you make time upfront to connect to your child and try to understand what the situation is and how he’s feeling, he feels safer, more attached to you, more interested in your guidance – and there’s less backlash and resistance to deal with later on. Making the time for connection really is a time and energy saver!