Speaking Around Sedated Patients

I don’t have many pet peeves in the perioperative and ICU settings, but one in particular really irks me: speaking unprofessionally about patients when they are “sedated” or “unconscious.”

I’ve unfortunately encountered this practice with various proceduralists and nurses, and I’m quick to remind them that if this patient was their family member, would they want members of their treatment team degrading their appearance…. or talking about dinner plans… or gossiping loudly at 3 AM instead of promoting sleep hygiene? Don’t even get me started about ICU delirium. There’s a time and a place for general discussion, but if you’re working directly with a patient, it can wait!

Even if your patient is sedated based on conventional signs/scoring systems, they may still be AWARE. We are there to help and comfort patients at their most vulnerable times, and for us to pass judgment in these moments denigrates who we are as healthcare providers (not to mention, compassionate human beings). Remember, we could be the patient someday.

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