AACN News—September 1998—Letters: Educate Public to Keep Medical History

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Vol. 15, No. 9, SEPTEMBER 1998

I am a nurse on a mission. I am concerned about patients and families who do not know their medical histories. For example, there are patients who rifle through their purses, trying to find a decade-old piece of paper with an allergy written on it. Or, there are those who can’t recall whether they have had a complete or partial hysterectomy, or even what year it was done. Of course, there’s the proverbial no-name “little white pill for my heart.”

Wasted time and inaccurate or incomplete information mean that the healthcare these patients receive after they arrive at a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office is slower and less safe. My mission is to educate people about the importance of keeping complete and accurate medical histories on themselves so that they can help get faster, safer care.

This is more important than ever, because people now are seen by more than one doctor; take a plethora of medicines, herbs, and self-remedies; have more “devices” inserted into their bodies for procedures and surgeries; travel more; live longer; and live apart from their families. Everything is more complicated. In addition, people tend to forget details when they are under stress and not feeling well.

I am concerned that people don’t take more responsibility and keep accurate records on themselves. However, when I sit back and take an objective look at the situation, I realize that maybe we as a health profession have failed to adequately educate the public about this need. We tell our patients to keep records on their children’s immunizations; there are even books in which to record this information. But, what have we done for the adults?

I have been well received by groups to which I have talked about being prepared. People have been responsive and appreciative of the fact that a nurse is taking the time to discuss this important matter with them.

If anyone wants to join me on this mission, I would be glad to talk with you. Contact me at (502) 769-0418; fax, (502) 737-6293; e-mail, mikjones@ne.infi.net.

Carol H. Jones, RN, MS, CCRN
Elizabeth, Ky.

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