Jun 04

The nurse in the family

My Mom (retired RN) and me!

Does this happen to you? “So, Shannon, I have this ache in my left shoulder that makes it hard for me to garden. What do you think I should do, should I bother my doctor? (no, you should just bother me-lol!)  Do  friends, members of your family, (and sometimes people you have just met) think you know absolutely everything about all matters of health and health care? I’m not complaining, really…it’s kind of flattering to be accorded that kind of faith in the knowledge of the RN. With family, it sometimes becomes difficult though. In my family of 3 siblings, if there is a tough issue to raise, a difficult communication that needs to happen, or a hard decision that needs to be made in matters of health (especially with my mother)…it generally falls to me. And I know I am complicit in the situation, because I usually do take on the responsibility, and carry out the expected task, however unsavoury. Sometimes though, it feels like I’m the “bad guy”—does that happen to you?  Advice I often receive is this: “just separate yourself from the situation and treat the family member like a patient”.  Hmmm, maybe I’m the exception, but I just can’t seem to do this kind of compartmentalization. I also have been advised “just say no” to the request—that would be a whole lot easier to do if I could follow the first piece of advice! I’d be very interested to hear the experience of others–are you the “nurse in the family?” Is it complicated by gender roles in families?

As a final reflection, it does serve to remind me how much people, in general, trust those of us with the RN designation behind our names. Poll after poll, year after year, bears this out. In point of fact, it is this trust that is the foundation of self regulation—the public actually trusts us so much that they know that we will protect their interests, even before our own. It really is a staggering responsibility, and an incredible honour.

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