It is three hours before you finally get to see the doctor. You hand him a slip and he mumbles a few things you cannot make sense of.The pain is too much now,you can hardly stand.They wheel you around to the bed and you lay there,still as a log..the piercing pain keeping you awake.
Within hours of your arrival,the agony has intensified.The room is dingy and the air is filled with sorrow.Everyone just lays in their bed waiting.Each ones companion sits at the side of their bed.Their distress no less that the one next to them.They wait helplessly as they watch their loved ones anguish.No doctor comes.No information.Just pain.
You wait for the ward nurses to come to you but they don’t.They dart around from side to side looking right through you,do they care? you wonder,you are too weak to call out to them.
Hours pass and the curtains are drawn.The loneliness creeps in as you fix your eyes on the drops of liquid falling into the small tube. Drip. Drip. Drip.
Then,a surprise when you least expected it.A young man in a white coat.He looks apprehensive as he approached you.”What is your name Sir?”.After 7 hours of admission you are finally addressed by your name.
“Jim,how are you doing?”
You already feel better.
Friends and relatives who have been inpatients recently all have similar complaints – never seeing a nurse except when drugs were being handed out, no one offering reassurance or information, days going by without any contact with senior medical staff, virtually having to beg for help moving up the bed or getting to the toilet, repeated requests for analgesia. Two elderly relatives developed pressure sores after straightforward surgery, and one lost six per cent of her bodyweight after a joint replacement because of prolonged nausea that was inadequately managed. It’s these experiences, and not the skilful surgery, that patients remember and tell their friends about. And it’s these that make patients, especially elderly patients, dread being in the hospital.
It’s all too easy to dehumanize patients,you put them in a hospital gown, lie in a bed and then make them wait for you to examine them.
We just have to make them feel welcome,put a smile on their face and remember that as they come in through the door,they’ve found out that something’s wrong,and as far as they are concerned,there’s only one person in the hospital-them.