July 8, 2007, 6:44 pm

Help Me Help You


This picture has sort of a “Twilight Zone” feel to it.

I’m not sure if it’s the masks, but I get the feeling the baby is about to be taken for “indoctrination”.

Rod Serling is standing just out of camera range.

Then again, maybe it’s the perfect hair and make-up on the new mother.

Lord knows that would only happen in the Twilight Zone!


Nurses, here’s a chance to take care of each other and have some fun in the process. The idea comes from POPT over at Pixel One, Purl Two. The details are at Secret Pal For Nurses. I’m already signed up. Join the fun!


You read about the responsibilities of health care providers to their patients. Safety. Efficient service. Empathy. Confidentiality. Courtesy. Continuity of care.

What you rarely see are the responsibilities of patients to health care providers.

What exactly do the patients owe us?

The majority of readers are probably health care providers, but we are all patients at one time or another.

Here’s a look from both sides of the gurney.


The health care provider must provide safe, appropriate care.

  • The patient is responsible for giving a complete medical history along with an accurate medication list or bringing someone with them to the ER/appointment who does have that information.

The health care provider must provide efficient care in a timely manner.

  • The patient is responsible for being at their appointments on time. They are responsible for understanding that in an emergency department, there are no guarantees as to wait times, that sicker patients will be seen first and “sicker” is defined by the triage nurse/emergency staff. Most emergency rooms have this information posted on the walls. In two languages.

The health care provider must be able to empathize with the patient’s concerns/anxiety.

  • The patient is responsible for letting their health care provider know what they need – HCPs aren’t mind readers. They must also understand that there are other patients in the emergency department/office and that the time available to spend with a patient is finite.

The health care provider must protect the patient’s confidentiality.

  • The patient is responsible for staying in their room/area and not asking about the condition of other patients. They are also responsible for bringing only the necessary visitors with them and not the entire clan.

The health care provider must provide for continuity of care.

  • The patient is responsible for making the follow up appointments and keeping the appointments as advised. They are responsible for taking their medications as prescribed and informing their HCP of any problems/issues that will prevent that.

The health care provider must treat the patient with courtesy.

  • The patient is responsible for being able to give their undivided attention to the HCP during their exam. This means no cell phone or text messaging, no chatting with friends while the HCP is trying to interview you.


Good health care is a team effort. The patient is the reason for the team. The health care provider and the patient have a responsibility to contribute to productive interactions.

When the patient doesn’t understand their role in the health care environment, it is up to us to empower them, to let them know what they can expect and what is expected of them.

Patient empowerment. Another word for patient advocacy? Sounds like a nursing function to me, but all of us are patient advocates.

I guess all the above can be filed down to one concept.




  • Nickie

    July 8, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    These are good things to keep in mind. I definitely prefer the partnersship feel your post has to some writings I’ve seen which can be the “I know what’s best for you” format. Your approach would win me over in a second if I was a nervous patient.

  • POPT

    July 8, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks for the link, Kim. I hope people sign up for Secret Pals. We’re all under enough stress as it is. We need to have fun and take care of each other. I promise I’m not some crazy pervert who will use the information to harass or spam people.

  • Rob

    July 8, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    “They are responsible for understanding that in an emergency department, there are no guarantees as to wait times, that sicker patients will be seen first and “sicker” is defined by the triage nurse/emergency staff”

    I do know how much longer this will be the case, at least based on my experience with Detroit hospitals.

    Two of the 4 big health systems offer ER guarantees, 1 even promises a “no-wait ER” where you are triaged and taken right back to a bed once you sign-in (http://oakwood.org/?id=205&sid=1). The other offers a 29 minute guarantee where you will be seen by a doctor within 29 minutes of signing in (http://www.dmc.org/ad_room/29mins/).

    These aren’t small hospitals either, Detroit Receiving is a major urban hospital with roughly 100 ER beds. These programs have been going on for years, and from what I’ve heard both hospitals realized that the extra cost these require has really increased efficiency as well as revenue for the hospitals.

    Who knows, maybe it will catch on in the future in other places. There is a reason so many of my patients skip their own primary doctors, because they don’t have to wait forever in the ER.

  • Terry

    July 9, 2007 at 5:21 am

    It’s always so interesting to be “on the other side of the stretcher” and view healthcare on the receiving end. I’m probably a good patient because I know what is expected of me, and what is good for me. I agree that part of our role as care providers is to educate and enlighten, not just givegivegive. We do patients a disservice when it doesn’t become a two-way street. Great article!

  • tbtam

    July 9, 2007 at 6:10 am

    Excellent post! Good Healthcare is a two way street.

  • Mother Jones RN

    July 9, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Wow, Kim, did you get that picture from the Sci-Fi channel? It’s creepy.


  • Val Jones

    July 10, 2007 at 4:25 am

    Great, balanced post – I’m going to link to it from my newsletter. Thanks, Kim!

  • Judy

    July 10, 2007 at 7:17 am

    Wonderful post! I hope you will consider submitting it to a major magazine so that more patients can approach health care with the information they need.

  • emmy

    July 10, 2007 at 7:28 am

    Good post, but I think the assumption that it is the patient that doesn’t keep the follow-up appointments or stay on track during office visit is a bit onesided. My biggest complaints about my doctors is that they are always cancelling my appointments at the last minute for “emergency situations” and that the doctor is constantly being interrupted by office staff poking their head in to ask “just one quick question”. If it’s a partnership, then I for one would like a little more of the control.

  • AlisonH

    July 11, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    I’m still trying to figure out the resident who exclaimed vehemently, and quite out of the blue in the middle of an introductory conversation, that no, I didn’t have lupus nor LE cells, and I couldn’t prove it anyway!

    What the ?! Huh? Where on earth did that come from? 17 years after my diagnosis! (Didn’t want any meds, so that potential assumption on his part was certainly not an issue.) Sir, let me teach you how to boot up a computer so you can access my records? What gives? I knew after that that it didn’t matter what I said, he wouldn’t believe me. What I never understood was, why the heck not?

  • Trisha Torrey

    July 15, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Excellent post, Kim.

    Perhaps if there was more respect, all of us delivering babies would look just like the mother in your photo? At least the doctor and nurse are doing something to control infection by wearing those masks.

    Regardless of the debacle that has become American healthcare, RESPECT can go a long way toward more successful outcomes for professionals and patients.

    Trisha Torrey

  • […] Jul 19th, 2007 by Trisha Torrey The term “patient empowerment” triggered a link to the following from Kim’s Emergiblog:  http://www.emergiblog.com/2007/07/help-me-help-you.html […]

  • gail

    July 19, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    I can understand that a physician needs to know what meds a person is taking. But when one is rushing like crazy to the ER for a real emergency, trust me when I tell you that taking a list of medications with me is not at all within my focus. That’s what electronic medical records are for.

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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