If you have ever been admitted to the hospital or visited the doctor to treat a viral infection, you were most likely treated with various medications or sent home with a prescription. As patients, with limited medical knowledge, it’s natural to put all of our trust in medical professionals, assuming that their decisions are the best. Although hundreds of millions of prescriptions are being filled every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many patients know little about the drugs that have been prescribed to them.
Although patients are given directions on how to take a medication, they may not know much else, such as side effects or other potentially hazardous reactions. The next time a nurse administers a medication or you’re handed a prescription, make sure that your medication is safe and that you are asking the right questions.
All Should Be Answered
Some patients hesitate to ask questions about their medications because they don’t want to come across as unintelligent or skeptical about their medical care. Unfortunately, many patients leave the doctor’s office or hospital with several unanswered questions and as a result, may be putting their lives at a greater risk. Keep in mind that no question is too big, small, or dumb. As a patient, you have a right to ask as many questions as you like; don’t leave until all of them have been answered.
Often, a question or two will pop up after you’ve left your appointment or the pharmacy. Jot down a note or make a phone call as soon as you are able as it will help you keep your questions clear in your mind. Here are some questions you should always ask before taking your medication:
Is My Medication Safe?: It may seem like an absurd question to ask, but some medications have been recalled and are not safe or have a questionable history; this doesn’t automatically mean they are taken off of the market.
How Can I Expect to Feel?: When a patient is prescribed a medication, he or she often assumes that he or she will start feeling better immediately, but sometimes the prescription makes a patient feel worse. It’s good to find out the good and the bad, so you know what to expect.
How Long Does it Take to Work?: Some prescriptions work more quickly than others and if a patient is feeling physically or emotionally unwell, he or she may expect to feel better instantly. Unfortunately, some medications (such as antidepressants) can take awhile to become completely effective. It’s important to understand the time frame.
Can I Stop My Medications?: When a prescription doesn’t seem to be working as well as hoped or has adverse effects, some patients will abruptly stop their medication without consulting with their doctors. Depending on the medication, this can worsen a health condition or cause additional issues. Always talk with a medical professional before stopping or cutting back on a prescription.
A Nurses Duty
As a nurse, you have a career and moral obligation to inform your patients of all possible side effects associated with their prescription drugs. Ask your patient probing questions that can help them to become more familiar with their medications. Make sure there is no sign of hesitation or unanswered questions. If family members or friends are present, make sure they are well informed as well. In most cases, if a patient has a severe condition or sickness, they may be under the primary care of a loved one. Ensuring they are up-to-speed on all information is necessary especially if they will be providing the medication to the patient. Keeping an open level of communication can go a long ways, and establish a deeper relationship with your patient – which also provides more credibility to you, as the professional nurse.