Feb 052013

Woman: (describing symptoms): “…and there’s been this weird tingling in my urethra.”

Intake Nurse: (with strange look) “So that’s itching? In your vagina?”

Woman: “Tingling in my urethra.”

Nurse: “Tingling?”

Woman:  (getting more quiet and embarrassed): “Yeah.”

Nurse: “And what was that other word?”

Woman: “Urethra.”

Nurse giving woman a questioning look.

Woman: “The thing I pee out of?”

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 February 5, 2013  L&D Nurse  Add comments

  31 Responses to ““…Tingling…?””

  1. When and where did this nurse attend medical school?

    • Well, thing is, she didn’t, but she would have attended nursing school. However, she’s one that gives them an undeserved bad name… because nursing school contains a lot of medical training, even if it’s not as extensive as med school (although, from what some doctors say, you wonder if they really got enough info in med school…). Not knowning “urethra” as a nurse really is bad… even if she was from another country and had a language barrier, the latin medical term would have been similar/the same (German: Urethra).

  2. Oh, for pity’s sake. I’m so sorry, OP!
    I do wonder, though, if this intake person was possibly not a nurse, but just the intake secretary required to wear scrubs. Some hospitals still (even right near me, but not the one I work at, thankfully!) have a regular secretary who takes the initial patient statement and decides if the person goes immediately to the back or over to the waiting room. And some institutions require that ALL personnel wear scrubs, so it can be hard to know who is actually clinical staff and who isn’t. It’s not a safe method of patient intake at all, but it does happen. For the sake of my own profession’s good name, I hope this hospital was one still employing this outdated method. :/ Otherwise, this “nurse” was just…well? Not top of her class, was she?

  3. Yikes. It’s bad enough to have to describe uncomfortable or embarrassing symptoms to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that walks into your room, but to have them act mocking, or not even understand you when you’re using anatomically correct language? That’s ridiculous.
    And even if she WAS ‘just’ a secretary, she should know basic stuff to be able to understand patients.

  4. Have to wonder if it wasn’t so much that she didn’t know what the woman was saying but that she thought “urethra” was one of those special medical terms that silly patients shouldn’t understand.

  5. I’m wondering if this is one of those people who thinks that the entire genital area is “disgusting” and only uses/knows the one word to use for it. There’s a lot more down there than just the vagina (or penis, for a man), but some people only use the one word to describe everything there, some out of ignorance and some because “it’s dirty.”

    • You must know my father! He gets all offended by the words “vagina” and “penis”. To him it’s the “privates”. Lol

      • I’d think I’d just found a long-lost sister, if either of my parents even said “privates” lol. They won’t even use a word for those areas. Whereas DH and I agree our children will learn anatomically correct terms (at an age-appropriate level, of course). For now we’ve only taught our daughter “vulva”, but as she gets older (she’s only 2 now) we’ll be expanding her vocabulary. :)

        • Then I think I must be your long lost sister, lol. My daughter is 4yrs and my husband and I taught her the correct medical term for vagina. Of course it comes out as “b-gina” but we get what she’s saying. I told my dad that “privates” could mean anything! The ureathra, vagina, anus, butt, etc. Of course this coming from a man that says “buttocks” instead of just butt. Lol!

  6. This is just awkward… Even if a secretary not knowing the word or a nurse not knowing he word for the right bodypart you could still let the patient describe when it tingles more or when it tingles less. And so trying to discover which bodypart she is talking about, slip out saying you are right back because you want to get another opinion and look upp what the word means. It is so easy…
    But oh well at least this patient knows never to go back to that practice.

  7. What the what? My five year old knows what his urethra is. This is nuts.

  8. OP here. Book to follow…

    So this was just the start of a miserable trip to Planned Parenthood. I do believe the woman who did the intake forms was a nurse, though I understand she may have been a volunteer and new to PP, but she honestly didn’t know what I was talking about. I got the feeling she was going to ask me to spell “urethra”. That should have been my second red flag and I should have left right then. The facilities in my area are really more for handing out/prescribing birth control and not places to go for gyn care, but I’m newly out of school and didn’t have gyn care before college (which I got through the school and thought was good care). A few friends spoke highly of PP and knowing myself to be prone to infection because my pH is all kinds of wonky, I finally decided to try it out and have an exam.

    I don’t know if more of my story will be posted, but this was the second red flag. The first was their intake forms don’t cover my financial situation (there are a lot of scenarios, but they don’t really see patients like me very often it turns out). They don’t see a lot of dependents who aren’t minors, I guess. Not a big deal, but it did take about an hour for my paperwork to be completed.
    Then my nurse didn’t know what a urethra is. And I felt embarrassed already for her skepticism over the symptom (it’s not the first time I’ve felt that awful vibrating/tingling sensation with an accompanying infection, so I started to feel like maybe my body is just broken or my brain can’t interpret signals correctly if someone who works at Planned Parenthood has never heard of it before!). At this point I was also embarrassed because I don’t like to make other people feel poorly and I didn’t want her thinking I’m just some punk hippy college-kid coming in and insulting her by making up words or trying to flaunt my superiority or something like that.

    But I didn’t leave, and so I ended up experiencing the worst exam I’ve had (and, prone to infections, I’ve had plenty of exams).
    My doctor(?) wasn’t trying to be unkind, but she caught me reading Anne Frye for homework and figured out I’m a student midwife (I honestly never once said so). I saw this look of disgust pass over her face and I probably should have left then, but I didn’t. And I don’t think what followed was meant to be cruel or to punish me, I truly don’t, but some of the comments were more snarky.
    First, she didn’t really give me any warnings. I think she assumed I know the order of a gyn exam, so she could just kind of go ahead with it with minimal description, especially in a clinic that needs to turn over patients pretty quickly. So she starts the speculum exam and is opening the speculum already inside me (and burning hot) before she says, “I’m going to do the speculum exam.” Not good. Between the heat and the discomfort, all my muscles locked up. To relax, I tried to start a conversation, “What kind of speculum is that?” “Kind?” “You know: model? brand?” “You would know more than I would. I just use what we have.” That kind of snark. Not major, and maybe self-conscious, and again I start to feel like I’m upsetting people who think I’m trying to one-up them. I wasn’t, I was just pretty focused on the burning hot speculum shoved up my crotch.
    And that no warning was how the rest of the exam went. I got no warning for the cultures or for a terribly painful pap with the broom, which shouldn’t hurt at all.
    Then she went to do a manual, and it felt like she dug her nails through my cervix and I involuntarily crab-walked up the table trying to get away from this blinding pain while also trying to be a good patient and answer questions so I’m just yelling answers at her instead of yelling “GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT!”

    So she goes to check cultures under some slides but before she leaves, I tell her about the stupid urethra problem because my nurse had a hard time taking it down. The doctor laughed in my face. The door was open, I was describing my symptoms while wrapping myself in a paper sheet, and she laughed in my face. I am hurting and trying not to cry and already dressed again, and she’s not coming back. 10 minutes pass and I start reading again. Another 5 minutes and I hear two women in the hall talking about someone who bled an awful lot, like they’ve never seen before from an exam, and was making the slides hard to see but they’d seen some yeast, and then they walk in my room. That was me. Apparently I was bleeding pretty profusely.

    The women sit down with me and tell me I have trich. Or, that I must have trich. They’ve seen no evidence of trich, but I was in so much pain and have a history of it and couldn’t recall if my only partner had been treated, so clearly, it’s trich, let’s start you on antibiotics. I say, wait a minute. I’ve been trich-symptom-free for over a year. I was super resistant to treatment when I had it, and I don’t want to up my resistance to treatments by treating something we don’t see here and I don’t think I have. Last time I took antibiotics, I was on the second-highest does, was sleeping 20 hours a day and was so exhausted I was hallucinating the 4 I was awake. I do not want to do that again if there’s no need. What are my options? “We can wait for your labs to come back in about 10 days.” “Okay.” And then they make a move to leave but I remember, “Did you say something about yeast?”
    I was there to be seen for yeast. Not trich. They saw yeast, not trich. And yet they wanted to treat me for trich and ignore the yeast. “Oh! Right. Here’s some diflucan.” Wait. I just described my poor reactions to medications. Can they tell me the side effects? Barely. They handed my a sheet typed up by PP, lists most common and benign side effects, doesn’t have the drug’s actual name on it … “What are my other options?” Now they’re annoyed with me. My other option is to get something OTC. “But you just said there’s something wrong with my cervix. Is it a good idea for me to use vaginal suppositories?” To shut me up, they ask if I want to do a clean catch. Sure. They hand me a dixie cup. For a clean catch. That’s not a sterile container. Whatever, I pee in it. And that’s when I discover I am bleeding into my underpants from this manual exam!
    I’m not sure what they did with my sample, but it definitely didn’t take three days to grow a clean catch culture and test it. Nope. They were back within minutes telling me it was clear. I knew it was time to get out of their hair, took a Diflucan pill with me, paid, left still in pain and shaking, and am two weeks later still waiting for test results, and this frustrating probably yeast infection is only getting worse.

    I still support Planned Parenthood, but I will not be going back there.

    Sorry for the book.

    • Oh my gosh, that sounds horrible. I’m pretty sure I would have been in tears. Sounds like you handled it much better than I could have in the moment. I’m so sorry they put you through that. I’d be tempted to write a detailed letter…

      I have a long history of stubborn, recurring systemic candida infections that got much worse after some hard-core antibiotic treatment, and I have also developed allergies to most yeast medications over the years. I think a lot of doctors fail to appreciate just how broken this problem can make a woman feel, and how big of an impact it can have on her health and well being. They just want to roll their eyes and send you on your way. After my last interaction with a doctor who repeatedly blew me off, was not at all interested in actually finding a solution, and was about to pass me off to a high-priced specialist a 45 minute commute away, I finally took things into my own hands and made drastic dietary changes (which was very hard to do because I also have a long history of food issues, which was why I saved this approach as a last resort). And within about two weeks I started feeling healthier than I had in years. The diet hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been infection free for about five months now, after over three solid years of fighting this chronic infection with various drugs, supplements, and home remedies, to no avail. (Yes, you read that right – I had a yeast infection for three years straight.) Plus, my digestion is better and I no longer look 5 months pregnant due to constant bloating from intestinal yeast. So, if you’re up for it and you haven’t done so already, check out some literature on the candida diet. It may make a huge difference for you.

      Whatever you end up doing, good luck. And I hope you can find a better care provider in the future.

      • I hear where you’re coming from! Instead of using OTC meds I went old school and started using garlic bulbs, plain yogurt, & pro biotics.

      • THREE YEARS! That sounds so unpleasant. I had a trich infection for two, but it was only painful with any penetration. I can’t imagine having to deal with more constant/frequent discomfort for even longer than that! I’m really glad something worked for you.
        That diet looks pretty intriguing! Unfortunately, living with my folks, I’m sort of limited to eating whatever the folks buy. Hopefully I’ll have my own place soon, and then this looks like a nutritional shift I’d be excited to try! Thank you for recommending it.

        Over the summer I tried some natural remedies. Nothing helped. I’m all for all natural, but I think my body just hasn’t caught on yet. Perhaps with major dietary changes my body will be more receptive to garlic and yogurt and apple cider vinegar tricks (though, hopefully I’ll never have to try them again!)

    • Wow! That is SO awful. I’m so sorry they treated you this way!

    • My one and only experience with PP was similar yo your exam. I was being treated for STD after being raped. I told them this. The exam was one of the most painful experiences I have ever had. I did the very same crab crawl to get away, I screamed out and I bled afterward. I will never ever ever go back there.

      • I am so sorry you were not listened to and were not given compassionate care. You should not have had to experience that, and most certainly not after such trauma.

    • I assume you know that Monostat is available OTC. I’ve found that once a drug comes out from behind the counter that the doctors assume that you have already tried that. Get some Monostat and treat yourself.

      • details, I do know. I tried Monistat over the summer to treat what I assumed was my first ever yeast infection. I’ve read you should have the first one verified, and I wanted to then but I wasn’t sure how to approach my folks about needing care, so I treated myself with OTC meds. And they seemed to work.
        But just a few months later I developed this infection and, considering my health history, I figured it was best to verify I am treating the right problem this time. If, for instance, I’m mistaking lactobacillosis (something I’m prone to) for yeast, then treating for yeast is the absolute opposite way to proceed. Needless to say, no matter if I had treated myself this time or not, a lot of what went on at PP that day was not okay.

        I tried the Diflucan and a week later nothing had changed. So then I got an OTC cream. Now another week has passed, and I’m no better.
        Maybe I should try Monistat next.

        • That sounds SO awful. I had a problem with a recurrent yeast infection and it was AWFUL. Monistat, Diflucan, etc. didn’t do much for it. It just kept coming back. The most effective thing I used for it was boric acid suppositories. At least one study has shown them to be effective for chronic yeast infections. You can get a prescription for them, but you can also just make them yourself. Also, if you haven’t already, try not washing the vagina with soap (just water), sleeping without underwear/pants, and ironing/bleaching/microwaving your underwear to make sure any and all yeast are killed.

    • OMG!!! That is an awful experiance. I’ve got reoccuring yeast AND UTI (lovely combination) so i know the symptoms, and my Dr. will prescribe an antibiotic without an exam now. Now, as for that PP visit – that should be taken up directly with PP. That is NOT how they want their Dr’s and Nurses to treat people and that is REALLY bad.

    • Grapefruit seed extract. Grapefruit, NOT grape. And you cannot be on any other meds while taking it.

      GSP cured my of a body-wide overgrowth of candida, including intraductal thrush while BFing a baby. It tastes awful, but works wonders.

  9. Wow, did you ever win the crappy gyn care lottery!! I’m so sorry that they treated you like that. It’s amazing how medical providers get so insulted when their patients actually know about their own bodies, what symptoms equal what ailment, and what works or doesn’t work medically. Like we’re just supposed to be stupid, clueless girls who just take whatever the doctors/nurses do to or give them. Good little patients who see docs/nurses as gods and never question anything. You should report them to the PP organization so they know that they have people mistreating their patients. I’m sure they wouldn’t stand for it. And the hot speculum…read what happened to me in that dept. here: http://myobsaidwhat.com/2013/01/04/yeah-yeah-real-hot-in-here-air-conditionings-broken/.

    I had doctors in college who acted like this with me. They refused to give me antibiotics for a sinus infection that they said I didn’t have. I knew my body and what this felt like, but the doc refused. He looked irritated that this dumb little girl was telling HIM what was what, when I was just explaining my medical history. I ended up having to go home to my doc (a half hour away, but still inconvenient for me and my family, as I had no car on campus) who was furious that they made me suffer like that.

    I ended up with bronchitis the next semester, but my schedule was so packed (and so was Mom’s) that asking Mom to come take me home for a doctor’s appt. was ridiculous. But, not having a car, and the public trans. system being a joke, I couldn’t get off campus to a “real doctor”. Had to settle for student health services. I saw one doctor (male) who looked annoyed when I described the symptoms and my history of bronchial infections coinciding with the change of seasons. Stupid little girl was gonna tell the big powerful doctor man what she had? Oh no, she has what I say she has. And he told me I had “a cold; chicken soup, lots of rest.” He practically patted me on the head and said it was PMS. No antibiotics. I’d waited a week to see if it was a cold, and I knew it wasn’t. I waited a few more days, got worse, went to another “doctor” there (male again), explained my history and worsening symptoms. He looked at my chart and I’m sure read something from the last guy that said I was a crazy, female hypochondriac. He blew me off with the same phrase, “just a cold; chicken soup, lots of rest.” I begged, he refused, and I started to wonder if I really was making too much of this. I waited another few days, got worse, and a professor kicked me out of her 8-credit class until I could stop coughing. I went back to health services, convinced that the male docs there were misogynists and if I’d just remembered to bring my penis with me, I would have gotten care immediately. For men only come there when they’re on their death beds; women come for every sniffle.

    I told them I wanted to see a female doctor, but the 1 or 2 they had were booked up for a couple weeks. But I could see any of the male ones if I waited a bit! NO, and I told them why. (And I asked if their situation told them anything useful.) They offered an NP, and she took one look at me and said I looked/sounded awful. She ordered an X-ray and then told me I had walking pneumonia. I was a day, maybe 2, from landing in the hospital…and why on Earth did I wait so long to be seen?? I told her I had been seen, twice, and I told her what happened. She looked at my chart history, and by the look on her face, this was something that happened before. She told me to NEVER go to these doctors again and to ask for her specifically. She’d work me in no matter what.

    I just wish I’d followed up to see what happened after that. If I’d been her, I’d have gone to whoever ran that place and informed them that they just averted a lawsuit for malpractice. If I’d ended up in the hospital, I’m sure my family would help me sue for that and missing school.

    Sorry for the novel, but like someone said earlier: this is like therapy! I haven’t trusted a doctor since until proven that I could, and I only see women to avoid that situation again. You were treated similarly just because of your age and area of study, which is just as bad. I’m so sorry, and I hope you can get them to change…or find a good family doc or OBGYN. :)

    • My word, what an experience! They were such jerks to you.

      • Tell me about it! And people wonder why I have trust issues, especially with male doctors. They’re lucky as hell that I was too sick and busy juggling healing with school, work, and other obligations to think to go their managers (or even the medical board) myself and file complaints. Being looked down upon given substandard medical care for such “threatening” things as gender or profession, with all the assumptions and prejudices that go with them, has just got to go. Even my family was more upset at ME than the docs for not “just” going home and rolled their eyes when I said it was sexism-based treatment. (Pre Anita Hill days, those were.) And by not keeping quiet about our treatment not blessing jerks like this with our presence (and dollars), we’ll get there…someday. :)

    • I am so sorry you went through that, AmyW. Nobody should be ignored by their health care providers. I am so sorry you went through such a traumatic experience, and sad, too, that the awful care you received (or, actually, didn’t!) caused you to lose trust in care providers.
      I’m glad you found such an amazing NP and that she finally listened to you and did her job. I only hope she and you reported those jerks.

  10. Doc: OMG! An informed patient who knows listens to her body! What do I do?!
    Mechanic: No worries, Doc! She’s just a silly girl with a book; can’t possibly really know anything. Use big words and a gruff manner.
    Doc: Yes! I shall Blind her with Science! And Bully her with skills learned in my Insensitivity Training Class! She will leave here in tears and all will be right in my world again!

    TheTingler, I’m sorry you had to deal with such abuse and discrimination! (((Hugs)))

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