Karen Garloch

Charlotte nurse: What patients should know, but no one tells them

Like many of you, I’ve spent time at the bedside of friends and family members in the hospital. And like many of you, I’ve been frustrated and confused by things I didn’t understand.

Kati Kleber, a critical care nurse at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, isn’t surprised.

As a new nursing graduate six years ago, she experienced some of the same feelings. “It took me a long time to understand how hospitals flowed. … No one really sits down and tells you.”

So in 2014 she wrote a book – “Becoming Nursey” – to help other nursing graduates understand the hospital culture. It was self-published, and Kleber expected to sell maybe 10 copies. But with word-of-mouth advertising by fellow nurse followers of her blog, she sold about 18,000. Today it’s used as a teaching tool in about 10 nurse training programs.

In May, she rolled out a second book for patients and their loved ones. Published by the American Nurses Association, the title says it all: “Admit One: What You Must Know When Going to the Hospital – But No One Actually Tells You."

It’s not a tell-all about problems in a particular hospital. And I didn’t find any big secrets to guarantee better care. But Kleber, 29, who has been featured on “The Dr. Oz Show,” does offer suggestions for how to take charge. “I wanted this to empower people to ask the questions they need answers to,” Kleber said in an interview. “It’s totally OK to ask questions. It’s not only OK, it’s your right.”

And if you don’t get the answers you want or if health providers don’t welcome your questions, patients should “press on,” she said.

Most hospital patients get an admission packet that outlines how to file a complaint. Generally, Kleber said, patients should tell their nurse if something isn’t right, and the nurse can take the problem to a manager, who will want to resolve the problem before the patient leaves the hospital.

If the bedside nurse is the problem, Kleber said patients should ask to speak to the “charge nurse.” If the charge nurse is the problem, they can ask for a nurse manager, who may not work at night or on weekends. “But there is always somebody on call,” Kleber said. “There are processes in place. You never want (a patient) to be sitting in the bed and they’re terrified of their nurse.”

Kleber’s book also outlines the various specialists who might visit your hospital room. “A lot of people assume a doctor is a doctor is a doctor,” she said. But academic medical centers especially have “a lot of cooks in the kitchen” that can specialize in different areas.

For example, there will be experienced “attending” physicians working with medical students and “residents” in training. Most will be specializing in certain body parts or diseases. Registered nurses have differing roles, and certified nursing assistants typically provide patients’ personal care, such as bathing. Other professionals provide physical, occupational, speech and respiratory therapy.

Not everyone can answer every question. “As a nurse, my priority is very different from the physical therapist’s or the nutritionist’s,” Kleber said.

So she advises patients to keep a list of their care team members. And she suggests writing down questions as they arise so you don’t forget and can address them to the appropriate specialist.

It’s all about improving your chances for a good outcome as a hospital patient, Kleber said. “It’s so overwhelming and confusing.”

Kati Kleber’s blog and books:

▪ “Nurse Eye Roll”: http://www.nurseeyeroll.com/contact/

▪ “Becoming Nursey: From Code Blues to Code Browns, How to Care for Your Patients and Yourself” and “Admit One: What You Must Know When Going to the Hospital – But No One Actually Tells You” are available at Amazon.com