It had been almost a decade since my last hospitalization. Late last week when I was admitted for a massive GI infection I realized that some things had changed and some things had stayed the same since the last time I had taken up residence in an academic medical center.
- Technology – from my bar coded patient ID bracelet to the handheld scanners the nurses used to log medication administration, the advances in use of technology was noticeable. Lab results from the emergency department were readily available to my gastroenterologist. Mobile computer documentation stations dotted the hallways.
- Communication – We never felt we had to chase down information. And I swear there was corporate training in the phrase “you know your body best” for the number of times it was repeated by staff. Although we waited several hours before an inpatient bed was ready, treatment was started, results were shared as they came in, and we were checked on by volunteers, nurses and medical students between visits from the residents and attendings.
- Emphasis on patient safety – my room was plastered with fall avoidance advice — “call don’t fall” was my favorite – hand washing stations and reminders abounded, and each medication/intervention was double checked by staff and electronically.
- Med students – when did they get so young?! 1000 thanks to the student who tipped me off to the fact that the branded form of my immunosuppressant was not on formulary and I might want to bring it from home.
- Me – the questions that I asked and the authority with which I raised issues have increased tremendously over a decade. The improved clinical knowledge of my conditions and the health system navigation savvy made me a much more effective advocate for my care. My comfort level and confidence in my knowledge of myself was an asset to accurate diagnosis and acceleration of treatment decisions. (ok, sometimes I had my physician husband voice my request, but still . . .)
- It’s All About the Nurses: Making friends with the nurses is the key to a positive patient experience. While I’m sure everyone on the floor got excellent care, friendly nurses made sure that my poking and prodding started at 7am vs 5:30am because they knew I was not an early riser in the best of circumstances and slipped me a copy of all my blood test results so my husband and I fully prepared with thoughts and questions by the time by doctors came ‘round.
- Hospital food: Dr. William Osler once said, “let food be thy medicine”. That memo never reached the hospital food service folks. Having the opportunity to survey both the clear liquid and soft bland solid diets I was astounded by the missed opportunity to support my clinical care through nutrition or even to teach proper eating to patients.
- Me – I still bring in my own pajamas and robe because I hate hospital gowns. I still can drive an IV pole like Danica Patrick. And I am still so grateful to be the beneficiary of revolutionary medical care that allows me to be alive and enjoy this rich life God has given me.