As I write this, I find myself sitting on the floor of a hospital bedroom. It is completely unrelated to what I was going to write, but equally important and reflective of how one’s world can change in an instant. In a society in which people are so apt to complain when something is wrong, yet remain silent when things go right, I felt compelled to share this story.
Having had the opportunity to be employed by the Brant Community Healthcare System Foundation, I was fortunate to be exposed to many of the amazing stories that come out of the Brantford General Hospital.
As with everything in life, what you witness in a hospital is as much what you conceive it to be as it is reality. I’m all for continuous improvement and growth no matter what the industry. We always need the people who advocate for change and improvement, and provide a fresh set of eyes looking at and questioning how things operate on a regular basis. However, we must also not lose sight of what we have and how far we’ve already come.
As I sit in the hospital with nothing to do other than wait for word on the condition of a loved one, I find myself reflecting on all the things I could be complaining about and, instead, rationalizing through each one to see why I should actually be thankful for it.
The most common complaint I hear about our healthcare system is the Emergency Room wait times. I’ve been to the ER before for a variety of reasons, and I’ve done my fair share of time sitting in the waiting room seats for hours on end, watching the clock, people watching, anything to fill the time. I’ve always been cognizant of the fact I should be thankful to only wait 5ish hours, when around the world there are people who dream of seeing a doctor in that time. There are people who’ve never seen a doctor their whole life, let alone been able to see one because their child has a cough or they have a pain that’s been there for a day. What I’ve learned now is I’d gladly wait for hours any day, because coming into the emergency room and being taken immediately into a room is much more terrifying.
In my time spent in this hospital this week, I have had encounters with about six nurses, each very different, each equally important to the experience. The first was a male nurse who did the initial once over; the one who asks how much pain there is on a scale of 1-10, what my symptoms are, and other basic but vital questions. It’s evident he’s both new and relatively inexperienced. His inability to sympathize with a family’s fear, or to bring calm to a scary situation, is extremely frustrating. It wasn’t until I left the room for a few minutes, and stood out in the hall just watching everyone, that I was able to understand. These skills are developed. It’s the system we have, and likely, the only option. He needs to work with scared families to understand what they need from him while he does his job.
The next is the woman, I’ll admit I don’t know if she’s a nurse or has another title, who comes to set up the I.V. I don’t know her, but I already pity her in a way. Her job is incredibly important, as it dictates how someone’s pain is relieved, and drugs are administered into their system. I imagine one doesn’t make too many friends when you poke needles into people. The loved one I was there with asked her to stop when she couldn’t find a vein, but she persisted. I was so angry in the moment thinking, how can she not stop when the patient just asked her to stop, before I realize she must encounter this daily. Within what was probably 10 seconds, yet felt like an eternity, she found the tiny little vein she needed.
Those were both the emergency room hospital staff. Then came the floor nurses. These are the ones I must admit really cracked me up. I found they all had strong personalities, from the hilariously overpowering Eastern European nurse, to the adorably sweet girl next door nurse, to the nurse I suspected might just hate her life and everyone in it. I conversed with some (you may just be able to venture a guess as to which ones), and not as much with the others. It’s so easy to categorize them based on my brief experiences when in reality next week, for someone else, they could fit into completely opposite categories. It’s here where I realize no matter who they are to me; they’re all still doing their job which, at the end of the day, is what matters.
The ultimate lesson I’ve learned is to make a conscious effort to find calm amidst the storm. The amount of grief patients, and more so patients’ friends and families, put on healthcare workers must be astronomical. People don’t go into the healthcare industry because they don’t care. Either they love helping people, or they are fascinated with how the human anatomy works. Regardless of which they are, you want those people there by your side. A hospital is a scary place for most, but it’s filled with loving people.
So when we’re there, as scared and worried as we are, let’s try to give the situation a holistic view. That will allow everyone to give their best to who matters most, which is the patient.