When Nurses Say It's 'Just' Arthritis

A few weeks ago I was talking with a student nurse. Our conversation somewhat ended coldly, but not the way you would expect. You see, this person happened to say, "I mean, it's just arthritis." I kind of smirked, gave a small laugh and said "You're lucky you said that to me and not a patient: I know what you meant, but a patient would think you just completely dismissed their pain." As I gave her the heads up, she proceeded to obviously lose attention and began to text and laugh at a message, not acknowledging I had spoken at all.

I get it. Nursing is an extremely difficult career. Believe when I say I understand- not completely, of course, since I'm not a nurse- but I see a lot of things they put up with and lots of great things they do enough to see the passion behind it. I'm in hospitals enough to be reminded of this constantly. And I understand that there will be one patient with a slight fever who insists they are extremely ill and in agony and there will be a dying patient who is in a lot of pain who doesn't really complain. But you cannot brush off a serious illness as 'just' this or 'just' that. That is completely unacceptable because it's not just arthritis (autoimmune or otherwise), it's not just asthma, and it's not just an allergy as much as it's not just a severe flare, or just an asthma attack or just anaphylactic shock.

I'm sorry. I bet I sound horrible to people on the outside, but it really hurts to be the person who is asking for help, only to be dismissed because it's just this or just that. We have to stick up for ourselves- not only as patients but as living, breathing people who just want some help. You shouldn't be treated like you're making a big deal of nothing: Of course it's a big deal! It's your body! That thing you walk around in? Yes, that's your own skin and you deserve to be cared for by a person who is supposed to care!

I really wanted to tell my friend a lot. I wanted to tell her that it was just my arthritis that just keeps me from working like everyone else and just gives me chronic pain. That it just caused kidney inflammation. I wanted to tell her that I just took immunosuppressants  to care just for my arthritis, and it  caused just hair loss, just nausea, just extreme weight loss, just colds that turned into more, just the feeling of having no blood in your head, just fatigue and social isolation resulting from such, and just a lot of other things she just can't understand because she's never been through it.

But I didn't say any of that. I don't know if I'm glad for not snapping on her or if I'm upset for not sticking up for myself again. Regardless of what I did, I'm asking you to never take that from anyone. Don't let them dismiss you, especially if you need help. Sometimes they simply don't understand and you need to help them along. Don't be rude- rudeness never gets us anywhere- but make your point understood when you can help it. Choose your battles wisely.

And remember, for every one nurse who doesn't understand, there are lots of others who try and care.


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