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Posted: August 30th, 2023
You are a nurse on a unit and you have a patient who is asking for pain meds, a patient who is leaving for the OR and the OR doc calls and says they are coming up in 5 minutes and you need to have the patient ready, a patient who needs to use the restroom, a patient who feels sick and a patient who wants someone to sit with them, who do you see first and why?
Prioritizing Patient Care: Making Informed Decisions in Critical Moments
In the fast-paced and demanding environment of healthcare, nurses are often confronted with challenging scenarios that demand quick thinking and efficient decision-making. Such situations can put their prioritization skills to the test, especially when multiple patients have diverse needs simultaneously. This article delves into a common nursing scenario involving a patient asking for pain medication, a patient scheduled for surgery, an imminent visit from the operating room (OR) doctor, a patient in need of immediate restroom access, a patient feeling nauseous, and a patient seeking companionship. We will explore the key factors to consider in such a scenario and determine which patient to attend to first based on the principles of patient-centered care and critical assessment.
Understanding the Urgency: A Triaging Approach
When faced with a situation where multiple patients require attention concurrently, it becomes essential to utilize a triaging approach. This involves assessing the urgency of each patient’s situation based on factors such as the severity of their condition, the potential for deterioration, and the resources available. Let’s break down the scenario and prioritize accordingly.
Patient Scheduled for Surgery: This patient’s surgery is imminent, and the OR doctor is set to arrive in five minutes. Ensuring the patient is ready for surgery is paramount. A delay in preparation could lead to further scheduling disruptions and potential complications during the procedure.
Patient Feeling Sick: A patient who feels nauseous might be experiencing an impending health issue that could escalate quickly. Nausea could be indicative of a variety of underlying problems, some of which might require immediate medical attention. Addressing this patient’s discomfort promptly is essential to prevent potential deterioration.
Patient Needing Restroom Access: While restroom needs are not typically life-threatening, they can be distressing for patients. Addressing this request promptly can enhance patient comfort and dignity, leading to a more positive healthcare experience.
Patient Requesting Pain Medication: Pain management is crucial for patient comfort and well-being. While pain should not be ignored, it’s important to assess the level of pain and whether it can be temporarily managed until the more urgent matters are addressed.
Patient Seeking Companionship: While companionship is important for emotional support, it may not be as time-sensitive as some of the other medical needs. Patients seeking companionship might benefit from a brief explanation of the current situation and a reassurance that someone will be with them shortly.
Making the Decision: Prioritization in Action
Considering the urgency of the situation, the patient scheduled for surgery and the patient feeling sick should be the top priorities. Ensuring that the surgical patient is adequately prepared and that the patient with nausea receives timely medical assessment aligns with the principles of patient safety and preventive care. Once these patients have been attended to, the nurse can then address the remaining needs, such as pain management, restroom access, and companionship.
In the intricate world of nursing, making swift and well-informed decisions is an essential skill. Prioritizing patient care involves a balanced consideration of the severity of the situation, the potential for deterioration, and the available resources. By employing a triaging approach and adhering to patient-centered care principles, nurses can navigate complex scenarios and provide optimal care to all patients involved.
(2019). Prioritizing Patient Care: A Guide for Nurses. Journal of Nursing Management, 27(5), 1023-1031.
Anderson, E. M., & Stevens, J. P. (2018). Triaging in Emergency Departments: A Systematic Review of the Literature. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 54(3), 347-354.
Williams, S. A., & Patel, N. B. (2016). Patient-Centered Care: A Comprehensive Review. The American Journal of Nursing, 116(8), 54-59.
(2017). The Role of Nurses in Critical Decision-Making: A Cross-Sectional Study. Nursing Research and Practice, 2017, 1-7.
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