Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Advice to Caretakers

I have had too much experience with hospitals -- two c-sections, grandma with cancer, and lots of friends and family who are medical professionals. Here's my advice for those unfortunate souls who enter a hospital:

1. Assume that the staff is trying to kill your loved one. After that has been ruled out, then assume that the staff is tired, burnt out, wary of law suits, or wacked out on pharmaceutals pilfered from the supply cabinet. Assume all that, but do not assume that they have the best interest of the patient in mind.

2. Next, learn everyone's name. Write it down or ask for business cards. Understand the difference between a resident and the attending physician. Refer to them by their name, when you're speaking to them. Be respectful, but firm.

3. Do not let students practice inserting needles on the patient. And just keep them out of the room if at all possible.

4. Ask lots of questions. If you don't understand a procedure or diagnosis, make them explain it to you. Take notes. Ask for copies of lab results even if you don't understand the numbers.

5. Do not let them rush into any intrusive procedure. Take smaller steps first. Make them explain why they want to do those procedures. Take notes.

6. Make sure that your patient is comfortable with clean sheets and blankets. If the nurse won't get those things, then find the supply closet and take them.

7. Have a medical professional with you if at all possible. Someone who speaks the language. If your second cousin is a nurse, have her meet you at the hospital.

8. If you find a nurse or doctor that is especially good, be very nice to them. Buy them flowers the next day.

9. Get the patient out of there as quickly as possible.

Remember hospitals are where people die. It is not a hotel. You have to be on guard to protect your patient from the inept, the lazy, and the stupid. No need to abandon all hope, but certainly abandon all trust all thee who enter.

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