Things I Learned While In Hospital

Trying to work out the names and roles of the many people who may briefly interact with you during your stay is like trying to master the full cast list of “War and Peace”.

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27450950284_bb638e39fa_zDon’t get me wrong, I have many, many reasons to be grateful to the NHS.  It has saved my life on at least two occasions.  I wouldn’t be here writing this today if it wasn’t for the skill and care of paramedics, nurses, doctors, and surgeons.  However, having just spent 19 days in four hospital beds on four wards in two hospitals, I have had plenty of time to reflect as I gazed at the ceilings.  My random observations are listed below.

  • Spiders that crawl up the walls beside your bed in hospital appear at least twice as big as the spiders that crawl up your bedroom walls at home.  And there is also a clear correlation between your inability to move and the size of the spider.
  • The “call bells” are always there when you don’t need them, and always out of reach (usually on the floor) when you are in your greatest need.
  • The American military obviously first came up with the idea of using constant invasive sound and/or sleep deprivation as a means of torturing prisoners after a visit to a British Hospital where the use of quieter electronic notification means had not yet been considered.

  • “Privacy curtains” offer no such privacy.  They may temporarily shield your modesty for a few seconds while you dress (until someone peeps through the corner slit to check if you are ok), but they ultimately work as amplifiers to reveal things you would rather keep secret.  When they are pulled they act as a neon sign to the rest of the ward saying: “Something confidential is going on in here, so you had better listen up!”  So everybody focuses on what is being said behind the thin blue curtains and listens more intently.
  • The longest distance in any hospital is the final three inches between the end of the fingers of any male post-operation patient who cannot move, and the empty urine bottle by the side of the bed.
  • Trying to work out the names and roles of the many people who may briefly interact with you during your stay is like trying to master the full cast list of “War and Peace”.
  • If “suppository” is a word you were only vaguely familiar with before your stay, you are likely to be left in no doubt about the full force of its meaning by the time you leave.
  • Having a relative stranger wipe your bottom is not necessarily as bad as it looks on paper.
  • Patient gowns – one size fits nobody.
  • One in three toilets will be blocked or dysfunctional.  One in three bath lifts will be dysfunctional and awaiting repair.  The working ones will always be occupied.
  • Different hospitals have obsessions, dependent on the whims of one of the senior staff at the time.  In one hospital I was in there were notices about washing hands everywhere.  In another hospital I saw hundreds of charts asking patients to compare the composition of their excretory deposits with the pictures on the chart and inform someone if an alarm needed to be raised.
  • Bogies that have been fed on oxygen for a week appear to grow much bigger than those that haven’t.  (Someone somewhere must be doing a Ph.D. on this.)
  • Don’t expect consistency.  Because of the size of the cast in “War and Peace”, and because of different shift patterns, consistency may be aimed for but isn’t always achieved.  In my own case, I presented with a life-threatening condition twice to the same A&E department.  On the first occasion blood was immediately taken and I was placed on a particular monitoring and medication protocol and seen by two doctors.  A week later, when I presented again with identical symptoms, I was seen by one doctor, virtually ignored for eight hours, and then immediately placed on the preceding protocol once a consultant discovered what hadn’t happened.  Within the space of 24 hours I have witnessed:
    • A patient given three contradictory instructions by three different doctors.  “You need to start this drug immediately.”  “You mustn’t take this drug.”  “You should take the drug in a different dosage to what the first doctor told you.”
    • A confused elderly man be given three contradictory messages by different staff assessing his case.  “You are going home.”  ” We are transferring you to hospital X.”  “We are transferring you to hospital Y.”
  • Beware of any medical professional who says, “Ok, after three.  One … two …”  Three is always more painful than they tell you.
  • A “Departure Lounge” usually means an empty ward, an upright chair, a jug of water, and biscuit if you are lucky.
  • Again, because of the size of the cast in “War and Peace”, and because of different shift patterns, the level of competence varies.  My experience has led me to guess that there are five levels of competence:
    • Staff that are uncaring and incompetent and should be dismissed immediately. As a patient you feel unsafe when they are around.
    • Staff that mean well but are operating at the edges of the levels of their competence in certain areas and need retraining.
    • Staff that do the job and do it well enough to cover their back, but find patients annoying.
    • Staff that are outstanding skilled professionals and who are supremely good at what they do.  However, they tend to see patients as intellectual problems to be solved rather than as sentient human beings.
    • Staff that are outstanding skilled professionals and who are supremely good at what they do.  However, they also recognise that patients are sentient human beings, and that being in hospital can be a traumatic experience.

Have you ever been in hospital for a stay?  If so, what did you learn?

 

 

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