Thoughts on Hospital Visits

Over the last four days, I’ve been in a hospital environment three times, on three different days. The first was emergent. That and the second visit were unplanned and a third visit, today’s, was a scheduled visit.  None of the visits brought bad or unexpected news, so you can relax, this is not a post about a horrific medical experience.

Rather, it is a post about many of the positive things I noticed and a few other observations.  Firstly, everyone at the facility where we now receive health care is extremely nice. Each and every person who provided care or stopped in the room introduced themselves. They also had on name tags that were outward-facing and readable. Big deal, you might say. Well, it is a big deal! We noticed over the years at the facility where we formally received health care, introductions and readable name tags (although worn), were not common. This was both unprofessional and frustrating.

Another very positive thing I noted that people doing was using hand-sanitizer. The room from where I just came had a sign on the wall stating, Gel-In, Gel-Out. And, all the staff did just that! It was reassuring to see that the passage of germs was not going to be opportunistic.

Both my son and my husband, the respective patients over the weekend and today, were both treated so well by the staff, in the emergency room, on the floor, and in outpatient surgery. One would expect this type of treatment from health care providers. But, again, that has not always been our experience. Health care, like teaching, provides a stressful work environment. Typically, staff burn out fast and become unknowing impolite, forgetful, and even nasty, all without meaning to behave that way but are reacting to work stress.

The people with whom we had contact genuinely liked their jobs! You could see it in the way they behaved towards us, and towards one another. There was camaraderie but yet also professionalism. The staff, from the CNAs to the med-techs to the nurses, physician assistants, and physicians all smiled, laughed, and joked! Still, the work got done. The patients’ needs were met, as were mine. It was wonderful to experience this!

Okay. By now you are thinking, on come on, you were at the hospital – it could not have been that good! Well, it really was! Sure, there were a few things we noticed that made us stop and think. One of those things was the aesthetics of the facilities. The ER, hospital hallways, waiting rooms, and floor, as well as the waiting area for outpatient surgery, were all exquisitely decorated with matching calming colors, views to the outside (green space), and gleaming (as well as expensively made) floors and counters. Chairs and couches were comfortable, accessible, and plentiful – even on a Monday at noontime. Coffee and water were available for convenience as you waited.  But, while all this is very nice, it makes one wonder about the cost.

As perhaps anyone who is old enough to work knows, healthcare costs have skyrocketed. Looking around at this health care facility, I am sure that all the newness of the buildings with glass fronts, fancy waiting rooms, and gleaming marble cost a great deal of money. Is this what patients and their families have come to expect?! Maybe! I was a healthcare worker back in the late 1980s and through the 1990s – spending time as both a bachelor’s prepared nurse working in a NICU, a nationally certified pediatric nurse practitioner in both inpatient and primary care settings, and then, a nursing instructor for two different institutions. The facilities in which I had my nurses training, and then practiced looked nothing like the facilities of today.  And, I worked for at least two world-class institutions! Do we need our facilities to look like art galleries to receive the best care? I think not. But, I do think that people, in general, tend to assume that if it looks good (the building and surroundings) it must be good (meaning that you will receive good care). I am quite sure that does not make for a true equation.

Secondly,  upon driving back to the hospital to pick up our son who had stayed the night, I stated that I did not think technology has made patient care better. We witnessed great  dependencies from all levels of staff on the “data” and “technology”  end of patient care.  A simple observation of vital signs would have signaled an unaddressed problem. It was my husband who noticed an abnormality and pointed it out. It was also my husband who checked the patient’s vital signs against what the machine was telling us. Hmmm. There’s a lot to be said about the powers of observation in medical/nursing practice. For the most part, we do not need machines to tell us vital signs. And, if the machine is used – one must note what the machine is reading.

It’s been a busy few days. However nice it was, and however, good the outcomes, I think we can go for a while now without visiting a hospital. I wonder what changes we’ll note the next time.





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