When Was Your Last Bowel Movement?

Posted by in Nurse

We all know how important it is to have a bowel movement, and if you think that you don’t pay attention to that stuff…then you’re wrong. On a daily basis, I find myself asking my patients the question of when they last had a bowel movement more than any other.  Once they get over the blunt shock of the words that just came out of my mouth and their presumptive shyness to the subject matter, they reluctantly divulge the information. You see, the patients whom I care for are predominantly those who have elected to undergo some type of orthopedic surgery, whether it be a total joint replacement or spinal fusion. This patient population is at an elevated risk for developing both constipation and postoperative ileus as a side effect of anesthesia and opioid pain medication. Constipation to the lay person may not seem like an emerging crisis, but nurses know all too well the repercussions of not having a regular BM.

Regularity, stool softeners, and laxatives are always in the back of pretty much every nurse’s head who is caring for a patient on a postoperative unit. Why are we so poop obsessed you ask? The main reason for our heightened focus on the quality and quantity of your most personal body function, is because in order for a patient to be discharged, they have to ‘discharge’ something of their own first if you catch my drift. At the end of the day if you ever find yourself in the hospital in this particular situation, just remember the simple phrase ‘Everybody poops’.