PRN (or As Needed)

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones famously claimed in their 1968 song…

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you need

I suppose, in the realm of hospice, and if you wanted to spice up (or ruin!) the lyrics with a dose of Latin you could say…

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you Pro re nata!

Okay, fine, it doesn’t rhyme, but it does have a hospice (and medical) reason. The Latin Pro re nata literally means “as the circumstance arises.” Medically speaking, many things are done on a precise schedule. For example, a patient might take a dose of medication once a day, or with every meal or before sleep. And, indeed, most of us—patients or not—have routines such as when we arrive at work or the kids have to be at school. These events and situations are predictable. We can calendar them.

But some medication is only given when needed . . . PRN (yup, Pro re nata). An excellent example, in particular for hospice patients, is pain meds. Sometimes the scheduled drug regime can’t address a surge of pain and a physician will prescribe a pill to be taken PRN. After all, when we’re wracked with pain, nothing else matters but reducing or eliminating that awful feeling. If you need it, take it.

Beyond hospice (and medicine in general), many struggle with understanding the differences between need and want. Today’s culture seduces us with fake needs, faux reality. Take this pill and be skinny (and never mind exercising or eating well). Purchase a particular car/outfit/computer/drink/etc. and your life will be so much better. But truly, so many of the hyped needs are hurtful wants. Lusts. Desires. Hollow hopes.

In hospice, or daily life, what life-giving and life-affirming PRNs will you choose? It’s an easy question to ask, but darn hard to answer. However, I believe identifying the PRNs essential for me (or you)—like time with supportive friends or balancing work, rest and play—is one of the best ways to spend our precious days.

 

(Like all medical fields, hospice vigorously protects a patient’s privacy. I’ll take care with what and how I share about my experiences. Names will be changed and some events combined and/or summarized.)

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