We all know that medical emergencies occur without any provocation or warning. But I never thought one would happen on a bright sunny Sunday afternoon at a social gathering…
An older guest who is a stroke survivor was attending this social gathering and began making a loud noise while engaging in a conversation. Most of those present just assumed that this person was having a particularly boisterous verbal response. However one person – who happens to be a nurse – quickly walked over to the older guest and determined that her airway was occluded. The loud noise actually was a bark being made in an attempt to cough and clear the airway.
Within seconds the nurse performed the Heimlich maneuver and quickly pivoted the victim to sit on a nearby chair. Another guest who is oxygen dependent gave the nurse a spare nasal cannula who applied it to the victim. By this time an ambulance was en route and arrived in 2 minutes. Oxygen was made available to the victim and the other guest was able to resume oxygenation without harm.
Throughout all of this drama – which lasted no more than 5 minutes – two other guests were standing off to the side observing. These guests are physicians. Yes, we were all pleased that the victim was cared for and the situation had a good outcome but why were the physicians “letting” the nurse handle the issue?
This is not the first time that I’ve been in attendance at an event where a medical emergency has occurred and there are physicians available to intervene. I’ve also overheard physicians say that “it appears that everything is being handled” and just walk away. This behavior annoys me.
I understand the need to protect a license and the fear of being sued for inappropriate care but consciously not helping another person or even offering to help when the education and experience is well documented is just unacceptable to me.
Like most nurses, I personally know a fair amount of physicians. I’ve worked with many of them as well as having used their services. The one behavior that I’ve observed on more than one occasion is when someone asks the physician a question the response begins with “is this one of my patients?” If not, the response may continue with something like “well tell them to make an appointment” or “tell them to go to the emergency room.” Medical advice is not readily provided.
On the other hand, nurses are usually the first to jump to the aid of someone in distress. I’ve done it and I’ve seen other nurses do it too. Why do we do this?
I believe it is because of our education – and the role we play in health care. Nurses do not ask for proof of health insurance or name and location of a pharmacy prior to providing care. Nurses do not collect co-pays after providing medication or treatments. And nurses do not have to obtain authorization from a health insurance company before assisting another person in need.
As I reflect on the situations where a physician could have assisted with an emergency situation but didn’t I silently thank all of the brave men and women who chose to become nurses. Although many believe that the health care industry would collapse without an adequate number of physicians I feel that they are wrong.
Nurses are the backbone of the industry. Nurses step up to the plate, without thoughts of personal harm, and help those unable to help themselves. Nurses don’t stop to think what impact the action might have on personal finances or paper work. Nurses just do, what they do best – care for other people.
So as the situation was coming to a close during the social gathering I overheard the emergency medical personnel and the rescuing nurse encourage the older guest to “be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible.” I thought it was funny that throughout all of this drama medical support personnel and the nurse supported the role of the physician in health care. Too bad physicians do not always offer the same support to us.
Until next week…