Nursing Voices

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Family Nurse Extraordinaire... otherwise known as a Comedy of Errors

As a nurse, you can and probably will find yourself appointed the Family Health Expert on any and all health-related topics.

I should know. I have spent the last day and a half proving the point.

It seemed simple enough at the start. Grandmother (GM) calls me and says she thinks she has a bladder infection and has been trying to reach her physician to call in an antibiotic prescription (I know, eyebrows raised) but just can't seem to get the phone call to go through. Little did we know, making the connection would be the least of our problems.

GM: "I listen and then I press 1 and then I don't know what happens."

I can just imagine... did I mention that GM is 99% deaf? She gives me the name of Her Doctor (a phrase we can use loosely here considering that she has seen him face-to-face ONCE... did I mention that GM also has a serious doctor phobia?). This physician has changed practices since she saw him... but, no biggie, right? (HA!)

me: What phone number have you been calling?
GM: "Um, I don't know... I can't seem to find it here, but that doesn't matter. It wasn't working anyway."

Uh-huh. Family Health Expert to the rescue.

I get through to the office without difficulty. However, it is now 12:32 pm and their lunch break started at 12:30. Perfect.

I call back at 1:30, and, after a brief explanation to the phone nurse, I'm given the phone number to Her Doctor's New Office. Okay.

Call to New Office.
Repeat brief explanation of situation.

Phone nurse: "We'll need to get GM's records transferred here and have her sign a release. Would she like to do that today?"
me: Ummm, considering that GM lives more than half an hour from your office and has a doctor phobia... no. (in so many words)

Call to Old Office.

me: Could you please fax pertinent records to New Office and GM will sign a release when able?

Thank goodness the answer was yes.
Call to New Office.

Phone nurse: "Oh look, we found GM's records. They were here all along because she signed a release when we switched practices. However, GM has never been here and Her Doctor is out of the office this week. We'll need to see GM."
me: Ummm, no. (insert brief repeat explanation of GM's doctor phobia and fact that she lives more than half an hour from New Office.) Can we please have her leave a urine sample at the hospital lab here in town?
Phone nurse: (and really, she was very accomodating, all things considered) "Let me check with Her Doctor's New Partner."

Apparently, Her Doctor's New Partner does not have priveleges at the hospital here in town, so one way or another GM would have to drive to the next town up in order to get any help from New Office. ARGH. (That last part was unspoken, but definitely heartfelt.)

Next step, half hour conversation with GM regarding whether or not to stay with Her Doctor and drive to New Office out of town, or switch to someone else at Old Office here in town. After much hemming and hawing (I'm talking MUCH here... due to GM's hearing difficulties, I must repeat virtually every sentence at least once), GM decides to switch to someone else at Old Office. Okay, now we're getting somewhere.

Call to Old Office.

me: Hi, it's me again. GM would like to switch back to your practice (I can almost see Phone nurse rolling her eyes at this point)... would it be possible for her to leave a urine sample at the hospital here in town so that she can have an antibiotic called in if necessary?
Phone nurse: "Yes, but you see, we no longer have GM's records, so she'll need to sign a release and have them transferred back from New Office."
me: (muttering under my breath for a moment...) Okay.

Call to New Office. (by this time I'm not even sure who's who... I'm just glad they're still willing to take my calls.)

me: Hi, it's me again. GM decided to seek advice at Old Office. Could you please fax pertinent records there?

Again, the answer was yes. Sigh of relief.

Next step, explain to GM that we still need a urine sample. If she drives to my house, I will take her to the hospital lab where she can give one. No problem.

I proceed to wait for another half an hour or so, expecting GM to show up at my house. At this point, she calls me.

GM: "Well, I got about halfway to your house and it got really foggy. I started thinking about how long I'm going to have to sit in that doctor's office, and I really can't be driving home in the dark. So, I turned around and came home. I think I'll just wait it out. After all, it's not really that bad."
me: (pause for silent scream) GM, I really think you should do this. I'll come and get you. And you won't have to sit in the office. We're just going to go in so you can pee in a cup (at this point, I really did use the words "pee in a cup" with my Grandmother... yikes.).
GM: No.

Call to Old Office.

me: Yeah, it's me AGAIN. I'm very sorry. You're not going to believe this, but GM does not want to come in today. She agreed to call or come if anything gets worse. You see, she's got this doctor phobia...
Phone nurse: You know, I think I remember GM.
me: I bet you do.

End of story, right? Wrong.

Over the course of that evening and the next morning, there were a few intervening phone calls from GM, reassuring me that she's feeling just fine and thinks that her discomfort will probably go away if she keeps up with the water and cranberry juice, also informing me that "if it gets really bad in the middle of the night, I'll just call 911." She said it so matter-of-factly that I really thought she was kidding. Not so. And I'm fairly certain that I did not dissuade her from that plan, despite my attempts to make her promise to call me if anything were to happen during the night. ("Oh, I wouldn't want to wake you up!" Little does she know, I'll probably lie awake anyway, wondering if the fire department is being summoned to the home of a little 88-year old woman with a UTI.)

So, next morning... not half an hour after calling to inform me again that she's feeling just fine and she'll call me if anything changes, she calls back and says that she was talking to a friend who informed her that the weather is supposed to be nasty for the next few days, and perhaps she should just give the sample and get it over with before she can't get through on the roads.

me: (gasp of disbelief and slap to forehead...) Well, sure. (thinking, Why didn't I think of something like that?!)

After all that fuss, GM came to my house and we went to the hospital lab and she gave the sample.

End of story.

For now.

Thanks to Dr. Dinosaur and the link to him at Grand Rounds for a little inspiration this week. :)


Iris/Rissy said...

That scenario sounds vaguely familiar. My oldest brother and I are both RN's. My mom calls us to ask us advice...then promptly tells us we don't know what we are talking about.

frectis said...

I'm knocking on wood that never happens in my family! LOL. As a midwife I'm like the plague to every woman in my family. God forbid I show up to parties and force everyone to have a baby in a rice paddy! ;)