Confessions of a nurse

PHOTO: Confessions of a nurse

The modern-day Florence Nightingale constantly faces verbal and physical abuse. They are also emotionally blackmailed and threatened.

It can get so bad that some of them need counselling, reveals Jenny, 37, a nurse at a hospital.

"Nurses need to be more compassionate and forgiving towards the patients. If not, we will feel frustrated and vengeful, and ultimately get burned out and leave the job," she says.

"Many nurses who quit felt lowly treated. To me, nursing is an honourable profession.

"I have had patients throwing their shoes at me, spitting on my face and hurling verbal abuse at me.

"One patient even threatened to return to haunt me if I did not help to fulfil his dying wish," recalls Jenny, who has 10 years of experience in the line.

The patient had asked for Jenny to lower the temperature of the air-conditioning in his ward.

She acceded to the patient's request and gave extra blankets to those who shared the same ward.

The patient died that night.

"I always remind myself to have more compassion and to be more forgiving to my patients as they are ill.

"And when I am able to help them relieve their pain and discomfort that cannot be achieved with medication, I feel good about doing my job well," says Jenny.

But there are some patients who take advantage of the kind nature of nurses and even abuse them.

It is common for patients to emotionally blackmail nurses, Jenny says.

She explains: "Some patients like to make nurses go out of their way to buy them their favourite food. And if the nurses don't get them the food, they will sulk.

"The nurses feel bad and make the effort to get the food for them, even after spending long hours at work."

Then there are the male patients who abuse their needy positions to get the mobile phone numbers of pretty nurses.

"Many young nurses, who are new to the job, do not know exactly how to handle such situations.

"They tend to give their contact numbers to the patients and even when they feel harassed by their patients, they do not know what they should do," says Jenny.

Recently, Jenny found out that one of her junior nurses had been harassed by a male patient who would call and send her text messages every day.

Jenny describes her colleague as young and sweet-looking.

She noticed how the colleague was uneasy when attending to the particular male patient and asked her about it.

"She was too shy to report the harassment. I later had a chat with the patient and told him to stop his calls and text messages to my colleague.

"A lot of times, we give our personal contact numbers to our patients because we care too much for them and we are worried that they may need assistance after office hours," she explains.

"We have a very good health-care system, but I am sure we can make it better by providing helplines after office hours.

"Helplines help to ease patients' anxiety, instead of having them all rush to the accident and emergency department whenever they feel unwell or unsure of their conditions."

Nursing is definitely not a job for anyone.

"Nurses are constantly challenged by their patients and often have to face embarrassing situations, like putting on a urisheath for male patients," Jenny reveals.

"A urisheath is like a condom, it is a device to collect urine. For me, it is just human anatomy and I will do it professionally.

"But I have seen how some of the younger nurses get all flushed up at the sight of an erect penis. Some of them even need counselling to overcome their embarrassment.

"But it is actually easier to put on a urisheath when there is an erection. So, to make my job easier, I would lightly touch the sensitive areas and quickly put it on for the patients," confesses Jenny.

Jenny adds that she would give her patients the benefit of the doubt when they tell her that they do not know how to do it themselves.