Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Remind Me Who You Are, Please

I'm no stranger to hospitals, having had three c-sections requiring longer post-partum days under the care of nurses and doctors and what not. More importantly, because my husband worked at that hospital, nearly all the people caring for me were not strangers. The only people I didn't know by first name were some of the medical students and the nurses. I had the same two nurses for my stays (seriously cool, especially since the births were two years apart each) so I remembered their names despite pain medications. The residents and doctors had no reason to introduce themselves each time they entered the room, because I knew them. Waking me wasn't a problem either as I was awake every two or three hours nursing the baby.

Then, I landed in the hospital with an MRSA abscess inside my nose. I realized that I knew none of the doctors. My husband, having only worked at the institution for a half a year, wasn't familiar with them, either. I discovered that health care workers need to introduce themselves whenever they enter the room, saving the patients or the parents of patients the trouble of asking or admitting, "Now, who are you? What do you do? Why are you here?"

Perhaps you wouldn't think this is a problem. Yet, it is. Dream Mom wrote about her experience with lengthy hospital visits due to her son's health.
During that time, several specialties were called into see Dear Son, many of whom I had never met. In addition to the attending physicians, I might have other physician specialties consulted and see them along with the residents and fellows as well for each of them. I stayed with Dear Son twenty four hours a day and the number of hospital personnel that entered my room on a daily basis was over fifty. During that time, I spoke with the Pediatric Attending Physician and told him that each of the residents/fellows needed to identify themselves and their specialty when they came into the room. He agreed and said that he had the conversation with them on several occasions however they still didn’t comply. They didn’t seem to grasp the importance of it. More often than not, they also incorrectly assumed that if they identified themselves once, that I would remember each of them and their specialty no matter what time of the day it was.

While the number of health care workers that entered my room during my four day stint in the hospital reached twelve at the highest, I remember the names of three of them, and that is only because I met one in a clinic two days prior and another in the ER the night before. The third name I remember was a nurse, and that was because he was a blast, making my stay that much more tolerable.

I should have remembered the name of the resident who lanced the abscess as we spent nearly an hour mere inches from each other. Yet, I didn't, although he checked on me three times over the next three days. Why couldn't I remember his name? Two big reasons: he told me while I was in pain, and under the influence of pain medication. I wouldn't have been able to tell you my phone number correctly that day, much less remember a new person's name.

One hospital protocol that worked wonders for me was a white board in my room that the nurses or nurse assistant updated twice a day. That board contained information for me: the name of the attending physician, the nurse's name, the assistant's name, my room's phone number, and the medical plan for the day. The nurses wrote the words clearly and large enough that I could read it from the bed. I loved that.

One team consisted of six members. Two of them, probably medical students, were never introduced. I managed to remember the attending physician's name. He hailed from India with a name nearly impossible for an American to speak. He shortened it. That's why I remembered it. The women who flanked him? They gave me one introduction. At least I knew which service they represented.

What about you? Do you have an experience in the hospital that is similar? Did you have no idea of the names or specialty of the people treating you?


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I actually worked on an ER training film once where this was something the admin. was trying to ingrain in the workers. Then when I was in said ER, it wasn't followed at all. OTOH, it's so chaotic in most hospitals these days that I think they forget about anything that they don't have to "solve" at that moment. Our healthcare workers are so overburdened, and yet, it's the patients who suffer.

jmb said...

I agree that the person coming into your room should tell you who and what they are but didn't they all wear name tags? We had photo ID with names and service which we prominently displayed as required although I always said I'm JMB from Pharmacy when I entered a patient's room. I did not want them showing me their wounds or cringing because I might perform some nasty procedure.

Sarabeth said...

All had name tags, but many of them enter your room while you are waking. I'm not the quickest to read in the morning or in the middle of sleep times. Also, those tags get flipped around without the person realizing it. So, there you are, wanting to read the name, but the tag is backwards. Another bit, JMB, is that the print can be rather small. If a group of doctors is at the end of the bed, not everyone can read the smaller print.

molly said...

My experience giving birth and recovering was wonderful because everyone at the hospital told me who they were, why they were in my room and what time it was each and every time they came in my room.

They also asked me very specific questions instead of 'how are you feeling'. It was a great experience.

dragon knitter said...

my mother was in the hospital at thanksgiving time, and the whiteboard was helpful. however, because she's deaf, half the people felt the need to raise their voice when introducing themselves. a very annoying habit, particularly when I am in the room, and am semi-sensitive to very loud noises. Like she could hear them any better! that is whyi hate the label "hearing impaired." most people assume that there is s ome hearing ability. my mother has none. she's deaf. leave it at that.

after a day ortwo, though, they'd look to me first, and i'd tell her who theyw ere. saved my ears and migraines, to be certain!