Ask-A-Nurse, Riverside’s free telephonic service
I think all of us all at Ask-A-Nurse as Ambassadors within our community. We touch people’s lives with every call in many ways, answering basic questions as well as dealing with the multitude of complex emotions involved. I have a great sense of pride in a job I do as a Resource Nurse dealing with everything from health issues and questions to providing immediate crisis counseling … such as one I had with a suicide caller who later called back thanking me and saying I had “saved her life.” Those calls are rare but very real and we must be alert, assess situations efficiently and triage appropriately staying calm to clearly verify the callers’ concerns.
I feel a tremendous sense of empathy helping callers who have recently lost a close friend or relative; the hardest sadness being the loss of a child. I have had a lot of personal experiences with death of loved ones as well as patient/clients, when all I could do was provide supportive bereavement care and guidance. We try to find positive options as much as possible in clarifying our caller’s needs. I feel close to community members in this unique avenue of nursing, which incorporates listening, empathy, sympathy, validation and good nursing communication skills. I take every opportunity to provide optimal teaching during all my calls. In particular, I feel fulfilled when I can help in teaching or giving referrals for families dealing with elderly loved ones diagnosed with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. It is a motivating and warm feeling when families are so appreciative. I felt especially empathetic with a newly diagnosed Lupus patient as she verbalized all her concerns knowing soon this could be me. Therefore my heart tugged as I gave support groups and detailed teaching and lots of good old listening.
Jane Cere, RN
Overview of Ask-A-Nurse Service
Ask-A-Nurse is a hospital based 24-hour telephone health information and physician referral service which provides personalized information on a wide range of health care concerns. This “information nerve center” is staffed by specially-trained registered nurses who carefully assess each caller’s needs and then provide information on options and alternatives available to the caller. Our goal is to position Riverside Health System and it’s physicians as the health care experts in the community by providing accurate, reliable health care information, physician referrals and hospital/community service referrals.
Each call is extremely important to us and we treat every caller with respect. However, we are still able to find humor in the way people say things. Here are a few examples:
- Can you refer me to a belly button specialist?
- Can you tell me where to get a backscratcher?
- It is true that wrapping cooked onions around your neck will make your fever go down?
- My boyfriend is vomiting. I know that means he got someone else pregnant.
- What is Cow-Hoof-and-Mouth disease?
- My baby needs soft food. Do I chew it and then give it to her?
- I took my dog’s medicine and gave him my heart pill by mistake. What should I do?
- I’ve had problems with a hiatus hernia for 2 years. I stayed home today so I could be seen by a doctor. Please get me an appointment immediately.
- How do you treat a rash on a man’s breast that comes after he got it pierced?
- My grandson just came from the ER, they said he had a concussion – can he cut my grass?
- Can you get pregnant from swallowing sperm?
- My 3 year old has an eraser up her nose, can I leave it there?
- How many days does it take to get pregnant?
- Why does my baby keep spitting out this powder formula? [Did you mix it according to the directions?] Mix it? With what? [Water.] You mean he’s supposed to drink it?
And of course our favorites …
- I don’t have any money so I need a doctor who will bill me.
- I have to be seen NOW!
To the uninitiated, the world of medicine is often a strange confusing place filled with unintelligible words, and high anxiety! Although many of our calls provide a welcome source of levity for us they also dramatically underscore the public’s need for health care “interpreters.”
At Ask-A-Nurse we enjoy meeting this need and having a little fun along the way!
Bethany Balmer, BSN, RN, and Ask-A-Nurse Staff
I vividly remember receiving a call from a young man who was recently released from prison and told that he was HIV positive. He believes he contracted HIV in prison as a result of being raped horror, his violation and his sorrow. Exchanging medical information was the most minor part of the call. I felt more like I was holding this man’s hand for a moment in time and allowing him to vent his feelings. He knew that I couldn’t solve his problems and I knew I couldn’t, but I was still able to be an understanding friend, and that is what he really needed. He was so appreciative for my time and I was deeply touched by his situation and his loneliness.
Paula Howell, AAS, RN
Occasionally a call will turn out to be funny and provide welcome relief if I have gotten a lot of really stressful calls. One evening, a grandmother called Ask-A-Nurse as she was baby-sitting her grandson. The baby was under treatment for an ear infection and was still in pain and crying. At the end of the call, I asked our usual question, “What were you planning to do if Ask-A-Nurse was not available?” She replied, “I would have taken him home to his mother!’
Louise Joynes, RN
An elderly woman called to ask how to fix her glucometer because it had displayed “HL” twice when taking her readings. I immediately realized that the machine was reading “HI,” which indicates that the blood sugar is too high for the machine to read. As I talked with the caller she stated that she was not feeling well and had to lie down early in the day because her chest hurt. I finally convinced her to call 911 and later found out that she was admitted to ICU. I feel very happy to have a skill that helps people every day.
Linda Kyriazis, RN
Many new parents call and are very upset because they don’t know what to do about their baby’s symptoms. At first, I get very nervous because their emotional state makes me feel there is something seriously wrong with the child. But after listening, assessing, and calming the parents down it most often ends up to be a relatively minor problem. Sometimes I have to walk them through taking a temperature and teach them some elementary home care measures. After the call is ended, I can relax, take a deep breath and feel I made a difference in their lives by putting their minds at ease, educating them about home care, and enabling them to get a good night’s sleep instead of rushing to the ER.
Georgia Todd, ADN, RN