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Nurse Comes to Defense of Her Profession

January 26, 1998

Marnell Jameson's piece ("Squeaky Wheel Gets Better Care," Dec. 29) provides some helpful advice for families with a hospitalized loved one. Thorough involvement of family members can improve both the hospital stay and the subsequent recuperation at home.

However, I suggest that a family member not assume an adversarial stance with staff as an opening gambit. If there is a problem, perhaps it is one that can be fixed with a quick, open chat with the nurse. Keep in mind that people become nurses because they genuinely care. Nurses want their patients to be comfortable and safe. The real root of a patient's difficulty may very well be with the administrative squeezing of staff until the nurses have little hope of accomplishing all they'd like.

When nurses are not able to coordinate and provide proper care for a patient, the first question to ask is, "Is this a problem with this particular nurse or is it with the system?"

I believe that the answer frequently is a deficit system. If that is the case, quickly go up the chain of command to insist upon an appropriate remedy.

Complaining to a director of clinical services (a.k.a. director of nurses) that the nurse was slow administering pain medications is very different from complaining that care was inadequate because the nurse's assignment was unreasonable and (perhaps) unsafe.

I urge patients and families to "squeak" loudly and clearly, and that they insist upon quality health care.

ANNE COWLEY HERZOG, RN, Huntington Beach

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