On a scale of one to ten…

Daytime: Nyel’s Chair at St. V’s

Hospitals are, at once, busy and boring places to be.  At times, usually from four to six in the morning, there is a regular parade coming in to poke, prod, and otherwise check on patient progress.  The phlebotomist is usually first, taking precious vials of blood back to the lab so various tests can be made and “the numbers” can be sent to the doctor in time for him/her to give updated orders for the day. Then comes the nurse’s aide to weigh the patient, followed by the nurse who takes “the vitals” – blood pressure and temperature and, sometimes, a measurement of urine output.

All the weights and measures along with various comments and notes are dutifully put into the computer for the care team’s reference.  Sometimes the doctor actually appears in person to talk over the plan of action for the day but, usually, “doctor’s orders” are delivered electronically and the patient is informed of treatment adjustments by the nurse. Questions are fielded back to the doctor and may or may not be answered in a timely manner.

In our experience, which unfortunately is considerable, breakfast arrives around seven in most hospitals – unless they are holding all food intake for an upcoming “procedure.”  The food and the processes surrounding it – the ordering, the delivery, the tray collection – are probably the least standardized of all the routines.  In this hospital, someone comes in person around ten in the morning to take the patient’s food order for lunch, for dinner, and for the next day’s breakfast.  There is no food service for guests.

The day continues with various procedures, bedside consultations, exercises, medication deliveries, measurements of vital signs etc.  During the down times, which are few, Nyel dozes and I go off to one of the hospital cafeterias to get grab a meal or coffee to bring back and eat in the room.  (In this hospital, I feel the need to be present and accounted for as much as possible.)

Nighttime: Sydney’s Bed at St. V’s

This is the seventh hospital Nyel has been in during the last ten years.  We find ourselves staving off the boredom between spates of activity by playing the Compare and Contrast Game – from the way the hospital organizes its staff to the quality of the meals and the attitudes of the workers.  And, of course, to their treatment of family members and patient advocates.  “On a scale of one to ten…” our conversations often begin.

Mostly we compare the amenities for patients – which, after all, should be hospital’s major focus.  But in this day and age when it seems universally recognized that family members and loved ones play an important role in a patient’s recovery, Nyel and I also discuss accommodations made for the non-patient team member (that would be me).

For overnight stays in the patient’s room, some hospitals offer cots and, in some, the nurses even make them up with sheets and blankets.  Usually, though, this is a do-it-yourself operation, which is fine and understandable. In other facilities, it might be a window seat that is offered for guest-sleeping or, here at St. V’s, a chair that (sort of) makes into a bed. Here, there is also the option of a motel-like facility across the street (if space is available), but then you can’t be on hand when things might be happening.  On a scale of one to ten…

We’ve toyed with the idea of writing a Patient’s Guide – sort of the hospital equivalent to Consumer’s Report.  Unfortunately, though, when you need a hospital, you aren’t often in a position to pick and choose.

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