Tip #407: Avoid Giving Unnecessary, Confusing or Incomplete Instructions!

“This life is a test. It is only a test. Had this been an actual life, you would have received further instructions as to what to do and where to go.”  Unknown Author

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. My recent learning experience with having an MRI reinforced the importance of giving meaningful, clear and complete instructions.

1.  Avoid Giving Unnecessary Instructions

My appointment instructions explicitly told me to wear pants without any metal attachments. Okay, that was no problem. All I had to do was wear pants with an elastic waist instead of a zipper. Unfortunately, I overlooked the second requirement until I had my snow boots, winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves on. Apparently, I was also supposed to wear pants without pockets.

This created some stress on my part. Who owns pants without pockets? I certainly don’t! Actually, what is the point of pants that have no pockets?

Once we got to the hospital, there was no problem. They handed me pajama bottoms to wear. I guess I was one in a long line of patients who were not pocketless pant owners!

This begs the question- why give those pants instructions at all? A good rule of thumb for hospitals, trainers and life itself is to avoid giving unnecessary instructions!

2.  Avoid Giving Confusing Instructions

The instructions on the bottle of prescription sedatives indicated that two sedatives should be taken 30 minutes before the MRI and another two sedatives should be taken 30 minutes after the MRI.

Taking them beforehand made perfect sense. I am claustrophobic and the idea of lying completely enclosed for an hour gave me great concern, to say the least. The sedatives were intended to take the edge off and enable me to relax and stay still.

However, I couldn’t imagine why I would need to take two more sedatives after the MRI. Would there be post-traumatic stress from the MRI experience? Was this a clever intervention intended to distract me and minimize my ability to think clearly and ask anxious questions after the procedure?

Who knows? I still don’t know, because no one at the hospital could explain the need for post MRI sedation and I personally felt no need for it.

Let’s add confusing instructions to the list of things to avoid. Instructions should contribute to clarity rather than confusion.

3.  Avoid Giving Incomplete Instructions

While some instructions are meaningless or simply confusing, some don’t go far enough.

If a patient takes a sedative, the hospital insists on having someone else drive a patient to and from the MRI. However, they say nothing about the length of time it will take before the patient can safely resume driving.

Because I asked the question, I learned that the sedatives I had taken would impair my mental capacity and motor coordination for 6-10 hours! Unfortunately, this information was not printed anywhere or volunteered by any medical personnel. If I hadn’t asked the question, I would never have known the answer.

I had errands to run that afternoon. I could easily have been a danger to myself or to others on the road if I had hopped into my car once I got back from the hospital. Luckily, since I knew that I was incapacitated, my driver kindly took me on those errands.

This seems like a significant oversight in the instructions department, don’t you think?

If anything deserves to be crystal clear, it should be medical instructions. However, in the hospital staff’s defense, it is probably so obvious to them that sedation takes a long time to wear off, they assume that anyone would know this. As a general rule, it is best to avoid making assumptions.

Life daily provides new lessons to learn. Lessons relating to health and safety can be anxiety-ridden and difficult enough without the added stress and frustration of poor instructions. First do no harm!

Even if you are not a health professional, regardless of the situation, when you give instructions, please make sure that they are necessary, clear and complete.

May your learning be sweet.

Deborah

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