A year at U of R

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Friday, June 30, 2006

What's your ethnicity?

Imagine walking up to a stranger and asking "How do you identify yourself racially? What is your ethnicity?"

Nursing is that is direct, honest and too the point. I always thought of nurses as caring, compassionate, sympathetic. They are all of these, but directness and honesty are more important to gaining trust. If a client asks you "Am I dying?", you tell the truth. If you are making an assessment, and a client exhibits signs of depression, you ask them, "have you thought of hurting yourself?" and "have you had any suicidal thoughts?"

The trick to trust is not to make judgements. You are just gathering information. If you're interviewing a client, you might ask, "Do you use crack? How about ecstasy or heroine? How many times a week? Does it affect your job and family?" They may answer yes to all and clearly have a health risk, but you don't comment on it. You record the data and move on to questions about their diet or family background. The client won't be afraid to answer further questions if they know you won't make judgements.

When it came to questioning about ethnicity, it brought out more than a little tension to the surface in our class. What if you don't consider yourself part of any one defined group? Isn't this information private? How do you tactfully ask someone who looks Caucasian or African American what their "race" is? However, for nursing, these are relevant questions. You have to get past your own discomfort at asking these questions and realize that it's not about you and your discomfort. It's about the client.

We've become very accustomed to asking eachother in lab "How is your urination pattern?" and "Can you descibe your last bowel movement?" If you're going to ask about their bowels, why feel shy about asking anything else?