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Nursing Critical Care:
doi: 10.1097/01.CCN.0000444005.08188.42
Department: Editorial

The nurse as the patient

Section Editor(s): Palatnik, AnneMarie MSN, APN, ACNS-BC

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Author Information

Director of Clinical Learning Center for Learning Virtua Health Mount Laurel, N.J. NursingCriticalCare@wolterskluwer.com

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In my last two editorials, I talked about the importance of caring for ourselves. While I was trying to walk the walk and take care of my psychological well-being, I completely missed signs to care for my physical well-being.

I have this general rule that if something doesn't stop me from my normal activities of daily living I just don't take time to address it. But the first lesson that I learned from this new experience is if something doesn't consistently feel right then it's probably not right and you should do something about it.

I'd been having pain in my neck and upper back for weeks, but it really didn't stop me from doing anything until one morning I couldn't move my neck and I had pain shooting down my left arm that I'd rate a 9 out of 10. I tried a variety of things to correct the situation on my own, but after a few days, I ended up in Urgent Care. The physician who saw me did an excellent job explaining why I was in pain and the follow-up steps I needed to take. He electronically sent the prescriptions to the pharmacy and my medication was ready for pickup by the time I got there. Although the office was very busy, I was in and out in less than 50 minutes and I felt that I got the time I needed from my doctor.

The next day, I saw the spine specialist. I left her office with another script to manage pain, a script for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), another script for physical therapy, and a follow-up appointment in 10 days.

Here's where I started to become frustrated with the healthcare system. The first physical therapy office that I contacted had me wait almost 30 minutes to tell me they couldn't see me for 10 days–even after I explained that I was in a significant amount of pain. So, I called a physical therapist that I knew and he saw me the same day. He's been fantastic helping alleviate the pain!

My second frustration came when I didn't get my precertification for the MRI. I called the insurance company and they sent me to an intermediate company that told me my physician's office hadn't sent anything. After 2 days, someone finally called me back and told me they were working on it. I went for my follow-up appointment without my MRI knowing that the physician wouldn't want to see me, but I hoped his office would get someone cracking on the MRI precertification. I didn't see the doctor, as I expected, but within 10 minutes of leaving the office I got a call about the precertification and a scheduled appointment that day for the MRI.

Bottom-line, I have nerve damage at C6. While the pain should eventually go away, thanks to physical therapy, it isn't likely that I'll regain all of the strength in my left arm. I'm left-hand dominate so this is really discouraging.

But the lessons I learned have really been invaluable. First, it isn't enough just to take care of your psychological well-being. You need to take care of your physical well-being, too. Second, I was able to move my care along because of what and who I knew. Our patients don't always have that luxury, so we really need to be their advocates more than ever. Finally, we've got to promote the use of Urgent Care for patients.

Until next time, be healthy, be happy, be great advocates for your patients, and take care of yourself!

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AnneMarie Palatnik, MSN, APN, ACNS-BC

Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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