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The Cost of Being a Patient

We all know that medical bills are crazy expensive. Isn’t that why we have health insurance? However, with my nephew having three surgeries over the past three months I have a new perspective on the matter. As an RN nursing student, it never hurts to have a fresh perspective on what your patients are going through.

My nephew Nate will turn eleven years old this month and has struggled with hemihypertrophy as he’s been growing up. With one side of his body being larger than the other it’s caused him pain, embarrassment and has hindered his ability to play sports. The older he gets the more out of alignment his body will be and his pain will increase. The doctor recommended surgery to lengthen his thigh and shin bones before puberty, so that is the initial surgery that took place in early July.

Now that you know a little back history, I thought I’d do some financial calculations. I’m not going to calculate the actual medical costs or insurance payments because I have no idea what they are. I’m just going to list some of the out-of-pocket expenses that have burdened my sister.

$45 co-pays for 20 physical therapy sessions
$5 parking fee per day for 30 days
$10 co-pay on about 20 bottles of pills
$60 I paid to buy shorts, underwear and Velcro to adapt around the bars and wires in his leg
$50 for medical supplies for wound care, etc.
$200 for a firmer mattress to support his body better

I’ll stop there because this list could get really detailed with games and books to keep him occupied as he’s been bed ridden and all the other “stuff” that goes into making a sick kid get his mind off of the pain. So overall, my sister and her husband have spent over $1,560 (plus cafeteria food and gas).

So why am I telling you all this? Simply because being a patient is stressful and the best thing in this world is a nurse who cares. Patients are dealing with financial strains, the unknown, and possible family pressures all surrounding their physical illness. When all of these competing issues engulf a patient, it’s the nurse who comes in to administer pain medication, the one who sincerely asks “How are you? Can I get you anything?,” the one who looks the patient in the eye that makes all the difference. And isn’t that why you chose to go to nursing school in the first place?

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Top Mistakes Patients Make that Nurses Should Watch Out For Part II

Here is the second half of things that as patients we’ve done or as a nurse you’ve seen at least one hundred times. These are the stupid things that patients do that hinder getting the best care possible at the doctor’s office. As a medical assistant or LVN, it’s important to know what to look for to ensure that patients are getting the help they need.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent has written an interesting article on CNN.com that tells patients what they are doing wrong at the doctor’s office, but as medical professionals it’s also important to know what to expect from your patients.

6. Patients don’t know what medications they are taking. – This is a question that we know is going to be asked: “What medications are you currently taking?” As patients get older, the longer the list gets.

Cohen also has a good recommendation: if you take supplements, bring them in since they are not standardized prescription medications.

7. Patients leave without asking all of their questions. – Cohen states, “If a question’s in your head, ask it, even if you think the doctor is rushed. If you’re worried your headache might be a brain tumor, say it even if you think you sound like a hypochondriac.”

8. Patients don’t bring their medical records or images with them. – This one really surprised me. I assumed that with technology where it’s at, all my records would be in my file. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.

9. Patients are too scared to disagree with their doctors. – As a patient, I usually feel like the doctor knows best and what’s the point of arguing; is the doctor really going to change his or her mind about my condition?

“I know many of you are programmed not to question your doctor, but we can’t read your mind, so we need you to communicate,” Dr. Lissa Rankin says. “If the treatment plan I suggest doesn’t resonate with the intuitive wisdom of your Inner Healer, please tell me, instead of ignoring what I suggest.”

However, I don’t think all doctors are that easy to contradict.

10. Patients don’t comply with the treatment plan. – I think this goes back to item #2. Discuss a plan that works for you and that you will follow through with.

Now I know that these are all patient based, but medical assisting and Vocational Nursing students in the San Francisco Bay Area will see all of these inconsistencies glide through those sliding glass doors of your hospital or clinic (especially if I’m one of your patients!) As a medical professional, being the patient’s advocate and making them feel comfortable in the exam room are two ways to ensure that you are getting their full information. Also, when booking appointments or follow up visits, giving advice like writing down a pain journal or bringing in medical images or medications can help patients to be more aware.

To read the complete article mentioned in this post, please visit
http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/05/26/dumb.doctors.office.ep/index.html

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What Kind of Nurse Would Steal a Patient’s Meds?

I’ve been putting off writing on this type of story because it seems so tabloid-like and puts nurses in a bad light. Unfortunately, it seems like every day I see updates or a new story about how a nurse or pharmacy technician has stolen patient medications. I just can’t fathom what could go on in a person’s mind to get to such a low point as to stealing drugs from a patient.
I read a story on Minnesota.cbs.local.com that appalled me. A nurse, Sarah May Casareto, was supposed to administer drugs to a patient who was to have his kidney stones removed. “The patient should have received 500 mcg of Fetanyl, a schedule II controlled substance. Instead, authorities allege Casareto ‘wasted’ more than half the drug and took 50 for herself. The patient received 150 mcg — about a third of the intended dosage.”
Furthermore, what completely disturbed me was that the patient was “screaming and moaning during the procedure” while the nurse appeared to be tired, dizzy,” belligerent and disoriented”. First of all, if a patient is in that much distress, wouldn’t the other staff present try to tend to his needs? Wouldn’t they know that something was amiss if the appropriate dosage of Fetanyl was administered? Secondly, if the nurse who consumed the medication was acting strangely, not performing her tasks and appeared “intoxicated”, shouldn’t someone have pulled her aside or removed her from assisting with a medical procedure?
The article on the website continues by saying that “After the procedure, a colleague found Casareto with two unlabeled syringes in her pocket. The colleague told her to throw the syringes away, and she emptied one syringe and threw it in the garbage…The colleague then refused to sign the medication sheet after the surgery, believing medication had been wasted or unused.
“When doctors and human resources representatives later confronted Casareto on the matter, they found an additional four empty syringes in her scrubs. She was asked to take a drug test, but instead resigned from the hospital… Casareto later met with police and told them she was dependent on pain medication.”
As a professional in Vocational Nursing, pharmacy technician, or RN, this incident just reminds me how important it is to be the patient’s advocate, not just protecting them from illness or injury, but from any source that may hinder the result of healing.
For more information, please go to:
http://www.kare11.com/news/article/906363/391/Charges-Nurse-stole-drugs-from-patient-before-surgery
and
http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2011/02/09/nurse-charged-with-taking-painkiller-from-patient/