Your healthcare providers: how to treat those who treat you
By member Rhonda Barfield, St. Charles, MO
The nurse caught me crying. After nearly three weeks in and out of the hospital, fighting constant nausea and vomiting with no diagnosis, I couldn’t hold back my tears. “I don’t want to be in the hospital anymore,” I told her.
Her answer surprised me. “I don’t want to be here, either, so I understand. But I’m a nurse because I want to help people like you.”
That brief conversation gave me a new perspective on my relationship with healthcare providers. Like me, they too may be hurting. Fighting illness. Feeling discouraged or overwhelmed. They may desperately need a listening ear or other assistance, and maybe I can be the one to offer it.
Granted, when chronically sick or in terrible pain, we’re probably incapable of reaching out to others. However, during recovery there are often many opportunities available.
We can be friendly.
I recently called a provider and asked for an itemized bill showing the original cost of a hospital stay, plus the discounted cost. It should have been an easy task, but the representative brusquely refused my request. She made me angry. I had to count to 10— and pray— before I thanked her for her time and instead called CHM to ask for advice on what to do.
I’ve lost my temper sometimes during calls like this one, but it’s only worsened the situation. Instead, now I try to put myself in the rep’s place and imagine how she may have had a stressful morning with irritable customers. I’m sure she needs to hear a friendly voice sometimes.
We can make others’ work as easy as possible.
This can be as simple as having an account number ready when we speak to a provider’s representative by phone. Or maybe, during a five-day stay in the hospital, we can forego having the housekeeping staff change our sheets daily; do we really need that?
If we look for ways to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” we’ll find them. If everyone lightened the work load for just one person, think how much more time (and energy) they would have to focus on others’ medical needs.
We can listen.
During one of my extended stays in the hospital, I connected with a young night-shift nurse who seemed to be one of those lucky people who have few problems. I soon learned otherwise. As a former college cheerleader, she had suffered serious injuries that still caused her frequent pain.
Nurses and medical personnel spend a lot of time listening to others and that’s part of their job. But they’re human and need to be heard, too. If we’re feeling well enough, we can show those who care for us that we care, too.
We can encourage.
I met another night-shift nurse during a hospital visit who needed encouragement in addition to my listening ear. He had begun his career with passion but eventually felt bored and unmotivated. “I’m thinking about becoming an ambulance paramedic,” he said, and explained why. I told him I thought he’d be perfect for the job.
A couple of years later I entered an emergency room and spotted this young man, now a paramedic. I can’t take much credit for that, but perhaps I played a small part in encouraging him to find his way.
We can offer to pray.
I often ask people I meet if I can pray for them and I’ve never been refused. Christians understand the power of intercession. Nonbelievers may not, but they usually feel grateful when someone is willing to take time to talk to God on their behalf. Even if I’m too sick to manage anything else, at least I can do that.
Prayer nurtures others. But it also redirects my focus away from my own illness or pain to the Lord who can comfort and heal us all.
The nurse who years ago caught me crying offered me life-changing insight. Since then I have tried to apply that insight to others in the medical profession through friendly interaction, lightening their work loads, listening, encouraging and praying.
I hope these “treatment” tips are helpful. I know they’ve been transforming for me.
Editor’s note: Rhonda Barfield and her husband, Michael, have been CHM members since 1994. They have four adult children, two “adopted” children (in-laws) and one adorable grandson. Rhonda is the owner of Listening House Piano Studios in St. Charles, Mo., an enthusiastic proponent of CHM and an occasional freelance writer.