Sunday, February 20, 2005

Hospital Blues

Instapundit's wife is in the hospital with a heart issue, and he wonders why patients are so often subjected to care at odd hours when that care is not time-dependent (they woke her up at 5 a.m. to get a weight reading, and he wonders why they couldn't have waited a few hours). I wrote him this in an email:

Having spent some time around hospitals and especially emergency rooms, I can tell you that the one thing that rarely occurs to employees thereof is time of day. Medical people have many things to do and a short time in which to do them, and even if some see both the forest and the trees, they can't exactly stop the others to explain it all. There are rarely enough hands on deck to give any one person the job of coordinating the whole mess from a patient-satisfaction standpoint, and burnout is common, as is incompetence. In ERs and critical care wards in particular, everyone is traumatized to one degree or another, often by things that happened days or weeks ago.

Not that I know this for sure, but I suspect it's like combat. The number of people who can handle it for a long time without being affected is pretty small. The others do the best they can under the circumstances, often by constructing a protective shell of brusqueness or regimented routine. They depersonalize patients not out of malice but necessity. And again, that's not everyone; some 20-year ER veterans are as kind and compassionate as first-day candy stripers. But that's the exception.

Sad to say, I think most hospitals and emergency rooms are operating as well as they can manage. Attempts to encourage change or improvement are not always appreciated . . . but you can sometimes get individuals to see you and/or your loved ones as people, not tasks to be performed. That usually helps.

My friend Shay J. was born with a rare blood disease, and has spent as much as two weeks in the ER at a time, often in miserable pain. He can attest to the truth of the old saw, "the nurse woke me up at 3 a.m. to give me a sleeping pill," and other such silliness. That sort of thing can seem malicious if you forget what else is going on in the building, and what those people go through every day.

UPDATE: Sounds like good things are happening for the Instawife, and welcome Instapundit readers! My first Instalanche . . . wow!

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