1. Section Editor(s): Laskowski-Jones, Linda MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM

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We sometimes take for granted that patients know what to expect in the healthcare system and even understand us. This realization hit home the other day while I watched a marmot hunt for food in the high tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park. As I contemplated a marmot's diet at 12,500 feet of elevation, another trail hiker approached. A pleasant gentleman in his 60s, he began to make the small talk typical of strangers.

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Our conversation flowed to what brought us both to Colorado and what we did for a living. As soon as he learned that I'm a nurse, he politely inquired if he could ask me a "professional question." Not knowing whether he'd tell me he was having chest pain, high altitude pulmonary edema, or something far more mundane, I gave him a wary nod yes while silently assessing him for any obvious signs of distress.


He then described a recent hospitalization that was, let's just say, less than ideal. The real problem, he explained, was that a company in another state kept calling him to ask about his "patient experience." He believed this to be a "HEPA" violation. Relieved that I wouldn't need to practice my wilderness medical skills, I took the time to educate him on the various ways that patient satisfaction surveys could be administered, as well as their purpose. When I finished, he seemed reassured that his medical history wasn't being disclosed to telemarketers. He thanked me and continued on his way.


This exchange brought back one of my own memories as a 12-year-old patient in a hospital. As a nurse prepped me for surgery, she asked if I'd voided. Baffled, I shook my head no. My only experience with the term "void" back then related to a common notation on my cereal box coupons that read, "Void where prohibited." Imagine my surprise to learn the healthcare meaning of "void." Taken in that context, this common disclaimer is indeed quite bizarre.


It's always important to remember that our healthcare world can be a strange and scary place to the uninitiated. We serve as the interpreters and the navigators. Without the clarity and guidance that we can provide, our patients might just stray far off course!


Until next time-


Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM

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Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2013 Vice President: Emergency & Trauma Services Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.