Thursday, November 3, 2011

Then and Now...

I grew up in a small town in Maine.  My mother was a stay at home mom…my father worked full time and many times, over time, in the local paper mill.  We were not poor but we were not rich.  My brother and I had all the material things that were necessary and a few fun things for birthdays or Christmas.  We did not eat out in restaurants, my mother cooked all of our meals, and if we were sick we stayed home from school and my mother took care of us.  There wasn’t anything that bag balm, duct tape and Vicks couldn’t fix!! 
Thinking back on several childhood illnesses, what I remember, is laying on the couch in my pj’s, comforter and pillow situated so I could see the TV and the famous orange bowl (puke bowl) on the floor by the couch.  I would sleep, puke, run to the bathroom, sip flat cola and nibble on toast until feeling better.  If we had a fever my mother would give us Tylenol and Vicks hot packs.  Sometimes our illness lasted several days and we would remain on that couch until the symptoms passed. I say all of that because it is very troubling for me to see a culture today that is unable to think through how to care for the typical illnesses that run through our communities.
Our healthcare system is out of control with its spending, as is our government with its spending.  I hear from nurses all over the country (ENA) who are concerned for this very thing as well. The abuse of the healthcare system is a hot button topic (one that every ER nurse in the country to go on for hours about!) The ER’s are overcrowded and in that mix is the person who has had a sore throat for 1 day, a child who has been nauseous for 2 hours, a child with a fever for 4 hours and has not had any Tylenol…People do not either know how to care for these basic illnesses or are unwilling to or don’t have the ability to be the stay at home mom with the time to do so.  Quick fixes are what people want. 
As a nurse I am saddened that my role as educator has been removed!  The patient is the consumer now and they do not want to be taught anything…they want us to fix it…give them a magic pill and send them home.  I am sad that we in healthcare have stopped being the patient advocate and the patient has stopped wanting that …teaching them how to help themselves…teaching them how to use natural cures for simple health issues…teaching them that by losing weight and eating healthy foods to help with inflammation that is causing so many of their health crisis…encouraging them to stop smoking, and on and on it goes. 
The patient of this day gets down right angry if the healthcare team tries to encourage healthy behaviors for better health.  Our healthcare employers are concerned about customer satisfaction and thus discourage making the patient uncomfortable in any way…so NO patient education for healthy living, it tends to offend. 
We are not helping our patients by giving into their every demand (like they know more than the doctor what will help their problems), or by handing out prescription pain medication by the handfuls for every possible ailment.  Sadly, as I listen to nurses in every possible nursing field, we are not helping our communities by dumbing down our health care system…by NOT educating our patients with practical and alternative therapies to promote better health.    
Times they have changed, and not for the better in healthcare.  I wonder…if our economy continues to do a nosedive, will healthcare be forced to go back to times of old? 

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