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What the dog saw?

This often comes out wrong when I say it, but I am going to give it a go anyway! In my mind, I tend to liken the behaviours of patients in a hospital or clinic setting to those of dogs. What I mean by this is that dogs will sit, sleep, and basically observe all throughout the day. Sure they get excited when food is around or when their lead is jangled, or the word W-A-L-K is mentioned. But, for the main, they watch….who do they watch? they watch anyone and everyone around them, but particularly their carers.

The dog will know the routine of their day very well, they anticipate the next activity in their day, their next feed, the movements of their carers and it is even thought that dogs are so in tune that they have a sixth sense as to when their owners are leaving work and will be home with them again! A dog knows when you are sad, a dog knows when you are happy.

In the same way, our patients watch us. They know the routine of the hospital or clinic setting, they know the people that are usually there. They know when feeding time is, they know when the medical round is due, they know when the medications will be administered….our patients are always watching. The very perceptive patients will know whether we as nurses are having a smooth or a rough shift, they may even know quite a lot about our social life from what they have overheard, perhaps even any hot dates we’ve been on recently! They will know which nurses like each other, which one’s of us are popular amongst our colleagues and which of us are not. And why, why are they watching us so intently, well….that’s easy, they watch us because there is bugger all else to do in a hospital, and people watching is an absolute number one time killer.

I recently had the pleasure of accompanying a colleague to an emergency department at 9pm on a Saturday night. It’s not an experience I wish to repeat in the near future, but it was absolutely fascinating, sitting for hours and hours on end in the busy waiting room, diagnosing those around me, hearing the conversations of the patients waiting to be treated and most of all, watching the emergency department staff come out from the main department to call patients in for treatment and assessment. The tone of voice of the nurses and doctors as they called people in, their appearance – tidy/untidy, tired or full of energy, rude or polite. As each staff member appeared from the door separating the waiting room and the main department, I started to decide which of those individuals I would be most happy caring for my colleague.

So here lies the lesson, patients watch us constantly and they will be continually judging how much they can trust us, whether they think we are clean and tidy, whether they like us and whether they want us to care for them. This means that we as nurses have a responsibility to be on our best behaviour every minute of our shift. As soon as we wear our uniform, it’s game on and it stays game on until we take our uniform off again.

Good luck out there, it’s a jungle.









I use dogs for two reasons, the first is that I am a dog person, rather than a cat person, and secondly because dogs are usually so patient and observant

What the dog saw is the title of a book by Malcolm Gladwell, it’s a great read if you can make the time.

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