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Why is pain not taken seriously in hospital?

There’s 6 days to go before my surgery and I’m terrified. But you know what sucks? That the thing I’m most scared about is being left in pain on the wards after surgery. It’s 2019 and I’m not afraid of the surgery but that I won’t be given pain relief. How is this OK?

On three occasions now I have been left in agony on the wards after having major operations. Usually in the day after the epidural is taken down. The pain relief is not adequate or more likely not given at the right times by nurses.

What is happening with the NHS and pain?

You know that I love the NHS, I feel so lucky and blessed to have free at the point of use medical care. It’s something we should be protecting but something is going majorly wrong here.

I have been left multiple times sobbing and crying in agony on wards. Just begging nurses to please get me some pain relief. Ive had nurses ignore buzzers, walk right by me whilst I’m writhing and hysterically crying.

I tried to discharge myself from hospital after my last operation just 3 days post surgery because the care was so dire.

Why is it that weekend wards seem to include some terrible nurses on the teams? Of course not all nurses, but I’ve found in each of the 7 previous surgeries that the care goes massively downhill at weekends.

Pressing the nurse buzzer in hospital pain relief

Despite putting plans in place last time and seeing a specialised pain team before they took down my epidural and warning them of my fears that I wouldn’t have adequate pain relief and having my husband there as an advocate writing everything down. But the following day the nurse seemed reluctant to give me the pain relief. She said she’d be back and left me for well over an hour sobbing. She kept walking past my bed and pretending she couldn’t see me.

And others tell me the same story, that their pain is not taken seriously. That nurses especially on weekends are either extremely late in giving pain relief or make excuses and they are left in agony.

So why is it that our pain isn’t taken seriously in hospital?

How is it that my biggest fear of a major op is that pain medication will be withheld? I’m so frightened of this happening that it makes me not want to go in for the surgery.

I spoke to the Pre op nurse about this, her advice? Kick up a fuss. Don’t be a “good quiet patient”. Demand to see the ward matron and if nurses won’t do that then phone the switchboard. Ask to be put through to the ward matron and tell them the bay and bed you are in and that the nurses are not giving you adequate pain relief. Then call PALS and put in a formal complaint.

Honestly this doesn’t sit well with me, I hate to be a bother. I know that the majority of nurses are so hard working, passionate and brilliant. I know they’re under paid and over worked. But there are a few rotten apples who are ruining it for everyone.

Being a “good patient”

There are many reasons that patients don’t complain. From a lack of knowledge to inability due to physical or mental health . Also a fear of how your complaint will affect your future care and wanting to be a “good patient”.

But being a “good patient” is not about sitting in pain because you don’t want to bother the nurses. Being a good patient is about being a responsible participant in your own health. I read a book that said that “good patients” die more than people who are active in their health and recovery. Struggling in pain worsens your recovery and outcome and so we should be ensuring we have proper care.

But if a confident and outspoken person like me has been failed with pain relief and post op care then how many others without a voice are there? How many older people who don’t want to cause a scene are laid in pain? How many people too anxious to press their buzzer more than once?

What can we do about pain?

When you’re in hospital after surgery you are at your weakest, you have little or no control and are completely vulnerable. Yet we are being let down.

This issue has given me panic attacks, I’ve had to write this in a few sittings as my hands are shaking and I can’t breathe when I think about my surgery next week. When I think about it, I’m taken back to the pain, the tears, the begging. I’m taken back to a vicious old bitch of a nurse walking past me several times. To her rolling her eyes as I cried in pain and finally stabbing me hard in the arm with the morphine jab. To phoning Timm and begging him to discharge me as I had no trust in the nurse now. And I’m terrified it’s going to happen again.

Timm did come last time, he demanded to see the matron and get some answers as to why we’d seen the pain team that morning and had a plan in place and why it was ignored. He got me moved to a new ward and a promise that nurse wouldn’t come near me.

He has said he will be there this time and make sure it’s all ok and I have a back up plan.

But it shouldn’t come to this when all we are talking about is some painkillers.

And I still can’t answer the question of why our pain isn’t taken seriously.

✌?& ❤️


5 replies
  1. Laura
    Laura says:

    Sam, I would have a discussion with your anesthesiologists to see what plans they have to keep you more comfortable this time. So you don’t have to beg! Since you’ve been taking pain medication daily, they’ll have to give you enough for the operation and watch you carefully.
    Are there any pain management trials taking place for operations like yours?
    For my 2nd operation (the takedown) they gave me a new pain “cocktail” experimental brew of chemicals ( in my spine) that was supposed to last longer. And it did. A doubter became a believer. I was able to get up quicker, walk, shower etc..
    With all the opiate problems today, and all the drug-related deaths, they are working on new preparations that will be safer so see what they can do for you to get a more relief that will last longer when the heavy stuff wears off. And take whatever they offer even if it hasn’t been effective in the past. Keep an open mind. The less amount of pain and stress you experience, the faster you will heal and can get back home. I would try biofeedback machines, fidget balls, foot rubs, scented candles, naps. Anything that can distract the brain– extra brewed coffee and tea soothes pain and opens lungs.
    Physical therapy can visit you with easy ideas like yoga slow breathing. Coloring books are calming. Panic time? Have a brown bag to breath into. Just line up some helpers and strategies and let people take care of your body! Ice cream improves mood. You’ll do fine this time. Hernia–go and stay gone. You’ve got plans for your garden.

  2. Dave Pawson
    Dave Pawson says:

    “Honestly, I don’t like to be a bother”.
    Odd, when you love to bother the world via radio and TV about living with a stoma?

    Sorry Sam, I’m with that nurse. Scream blue murder and climb ladders until someone gets scared that their job is worth more than an injection for Sam?

    Ask Timm to get you a voice recorder (tiny, digital) and make sure the nurses and doctors see you using it. A notebook is as good, but harder if you hurt. The message is, I heard X at time Y, or said Z. And I will remember.

    The charge nurse, matron and PALS (bit slow) are a good escalating sequence. Once the ward staff know you will shout, you’ll likely get more attention next time.

    Either that or learn to live with …. no, don’t do that please.

  3. Helen Harfield
    Helen Harfield says:

    This was definitely my experience post epidural removal. It hurt so much that I wished I hadn’t had the damn thing and gone straight for a morphine drip . I was laid in agony for several hours, not given anything. It was so excruciating I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak – I just lay there in tears. And no one noticed. I buzzed and couldn’t tell them what was wrong. It was the most horrific experience, ever- and I’ve had 3 prior surgeries. It feels like thing are getting worse, not better. I totally agree that the NHS is wonderful, but particularly when you’ve gone to the bother of making a plan it’s so hard to understand why they didn’t follow it. Pain is subjective, I get that, but it doesn’t make it any less real to the person suffering and should be taken seriously. I think though, they’re also wary of people abusing it, so much so, they don’t like to dish it out. It’s getting silly…

  4. Deborah Gill
    Deborah Gill says:

    I agree with every word and havd experienced the same thing. Weekends are a complete nightmate! In 2019, we have so many choices of pain control. I believd its caused through lack of caring and indifference. I have though also had a couple of good experiences which only goes to shpw that we definitely don’t have to suffer like this.
    The people in hospital who seem to suffer the most from lack of pain control are the elderly and vulnerable who have little or no family to support them and who could complain if they are not given adequaye pain control. I see this so often as a patient. It’s a nationsl disgrace and I’m amazed that there’s mot more publicity about it. So unacceptable in this day and age!

  5. Lynne
    Lynne says:

    I do so hope you get the pain relief you are prescribed this time round Sam. I think you need to be clear to the medical staff as well, as it’s ultimately their responsibility to prescribe adequate analgesia , not the nursing staff. They can only go by what is prescribed for you by the doctors. Also, very important is the timing and to ensure you are given something strong to cover the removal of the epidural, prior not after !!!! Wishing you a speedy recovery and praying all goes well for you .


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