View from a Hospital Bed
Yesterday for the very first time in my life I got into a hospital bed. I have spent the past two years in countless healthcare settings taking care of my mother observing the good and bad of our health system. It was a very strange experience for me to be on the other side. My mother had two back surgeries in the past 12 months which makes me a pro at checking into the hospital and going through all the questions. In both those instances I didn’t pay much attention to the surroundings in the prep room or even give a thought to my Mother’s view. And when they wheeled her away into surgery, I was nervous but went back to the comfortable family waiting room.
This time I was the one in the bed being wheeled from prep into the procedure room. In full disclosure, mine was a very minor procedure and I was on my way home by early afternoon with no pain or after effects other than a little grogginess. I still got up into the bed and lay there while all the staff attended to me. I watched other patients wheeled by and could hear their conversations including their answers to very intimate questions. I stared at a wall of glove boxes and disposal bins. All the while the blood pressure cuff a constant reminder that they were monitoring me and I should really relax. When I did tilt my head back and tried to be calm but I couldn’t help notice the boring white ceiling tile and wished for Sky Factory’s lighting. My nurse was outstanding and every time she gave me more information she’d ask, “Any other questions?” It made me feel fully informed and as in control as one person can feel in those damn hospital gowns!
Finally it was time to be wheeled into the procedure room. This was the moment when many things we talk about at the Symposium came to the forefront. First of all, the spaces were so tight that this older woman had to be as adept at driving my bed as a captain of a tanker docking in a busy seaport. Secondly, the reason she needed to maneuver so deftly was because of countless supply bins that clearly could not fit in cabinets or rooms so just were left in the hallway. I looked into this bin of orange things that could have been water bottles but I’m pretty sure were urine bottles. Not at all the images you want with you as you roll your way into the procedure room.
I did make it to the room and more staff descend upon me. Once again their kindness and thoroughness put me at ease. After answering more questions and confirming my information, I was moved into the right position and closed my eyes to try and relax. I heard someone say “do you want music doctor?” and low and behold a familiar country song started to play. I mumbled “oh I like country music”. I was told I’d like today’s selections but I never heard anything more than a few bars of that first song. Of course it was the anesthesia that lulled me to sleep but the music also relaxed me in those moments of anxiety just as I was about to go under.
I woke up in another curtained area with a new nurse standing over me, leaning on a cart (I never could tell who manufactured the cart). I was only awake a few minutes and then fell back to sleep. I awoke again not long after to hear my neighbor professing her love for a certain wild haired presidential candidate. That was enough to startle me awake. As I laid in recovery, the overwhelming observation was once again the ability to overhear intimate conversations (not about politics) between patients and their caregivers. Oh how I would have loved to hear the rest of that country song as I lay there coming to instead of all that chatter.
Let me reiterate, this was a very minor procedure and the results were all good. I’m back at my desk today and by early last night was feeling totally myself. My stress level was not as high as say my Mom’s prior to spinal surgery and someone having a biopsy or the countless other life threatening procedures that happen in a hospital every day. Yet my anxiety was up and I looked for my environment to calm me. What I came away with, was the same observation, I’ve made as a caregiver in many healthcare settings. The physical environment doesn’t often come up to the level of care the staff provides. The people are the ones that create the environment of healing and caring even if the physical space works against them.
The Symposium’s mission has always been to create healing environments for patients, staff and family. In the past year I have spent more time than I care to admit as family in multiple healthcare settings, I traveled to hospitals all around the country to see staff and their challenges and I have now been a patient. I will be using all I have seen and experienced as we plan the 2016 Symposium.
Happy & Healthy Holidays to you and yours!
Jenabeth Ferguson Vice President, Symposium Director Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo
P.S. Have a thought about the Symposium? Please feel free to contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.