“Just buzz if you need anything.” That is the all too familiar sentence from a nurse as they leave your room in hospital. You hear that instantly recognisable sound of the call bells almost engrained in the air when you walk on to a ward. (It is less apparent on a really well run ward in my experience.)
I have spent the equivalent of nearly four months of my life as an in-patient, yet I have probably only ever pressed my buzzer maybe five times.
Why my reluctance to ask for help?
Firstly I think it is intimately connected with my fierce independent spirit and desire to maintain this for as long as possible. By pressing a buzzer it somehow feels like I am giving in to the patient role together with its associated dependent state.
Secondly I fear the reaction of whoever answers it. When in doctor role I have observed nurses and HCAs reticent about the patient who buzzes all the time. I will always remember the first time I ever pressed my buzzer in hospital. It was a couple of days into my first admission to the Gynaecology Unit and I woke up with excruciating abdominal pain. I was in proper agony. The reaction I received from the staff nurse was one of indifference. I think this experience has conditioned me to be an infrequent buzzer.
Thirdly there is the uncertainty of who will answer your call. It might be a student nurse, it might be an HCA, it might be a Staff Nurse, it might be Sister. Some of the problems and complications my cancer causes are really embarrassing and the thought of having to repeat yourself as you go up the chain of command is horrid, in my mind anyway. I would much rather venture out to find the correct person who can sort out whatever the issue is.
Fourthly is my professional understanding of how busy nursing staff are. Even when I am in a side room I will usually have an awareness of what is happening on a ward. Perhaps there is a very sick patient or there are numerous admissions, which I will prioritise in my own mind as more important that me.
So my reluctance to press the big round orange button and ask for help gets me into a pickle sometimes. I have laid in a hospital bed crying in pain many times during the night because I don’t want to ask for help. I have also left other serious symptoms too long before telling anyone. I think sometimes I am just a bad patient. We all know doctors make the worst patients but sometimes I wonder if ‘lay’ patients share my feelings about the big orange button…