With the Cushing’s testing, my arthritis and my DVT I’ve experienced quite a few day clinics and even the odd day procedure in my time as an adult but until my PEs this March I hadn’t experienced actually being an in-patient. The last time was when I broke and dislocated my elbow at the age of 10. A long time ago and a very different experience as a child! So I thought I’d record my observations as an adult as it was quite an eye opener to say the least.
The common complaint you see a lot in the news is how slow A&E are, they don’t hit their targets or have beds etc. I have to say that my experience was a mix of both good and bad. I was seen quickly, probably due to the fact I had a high heart rate and shortness of breath; symptoms that bump you right up the triage list. I was seen within 25 minutes of arriving. It probably also helped that I was there on a Monday afternoon instead of in the evening or on a weekend. I arrived just before 3.00pm and was seen at 3.20pm. They kept saying they’d get me a bed whilst waiting for me to get into a CT scan but I had my scan first in the end, at 6.00pm. I finally got a bed at 7.00pm still in A&E. Luckily this whole time I’d been in a private cubicle instead of out in the waiting area and they did bring me a sandwich as well. So no complaints there! However I had been told by 7.00pm that I was being admitted and they were waiting for a space on a ward. That didn’t appear until nearly midnight by which time both myself and my boyfriend were of course exhausted. Past our bedtime anyway and it had been a very long and draining day.
Despite being so rushed and busy the nurses were fantastic on A&E, very caring and constantly stopping in to reassure me I hadn’t been forgotten. The doctors were also great (although one practically butchered me putting my cannula in;8 weeks on and I still have a bruise from her first attempt and my vein she finally got it partly into is still enlarged) particularly the one who informed me they’d found the clots in my lungs.
The next day was spent on this ward. It was the ambulatory ward which I’ve since learnt is kind of a ‘holding’ ward for those who are either only in for a day procedure or are waiting for space on a more appropriate ward. Again the staff here were great. Although the beds were all full I suspect that generally the people on there aren’t seriously ill, or at least not urgently and so the nurses aren’t hugely rushed off their feet. They had all my prescription medication so I didn’t have to miss anything, did regular checks on vital stats and were happy to come and have a bit of a chat with everyone whilst they were doing so. They certainly weren’t sitting around but they didn’t seem too stressed or rushed off their feet either. The other patients all seemed nice enough too so the atmosphere was generally pleasant. Again I’m assuming this was because they knew they weren’t about to die in the next hour and didn’t have any major needs other than maybe some help getting out of bed to get to the toilet.
Halfway through the day I was moved again to the generically named “ward 15”. I have no idea what this one specialised in but to start with I was in a private side room which I had from midday to midnight. The staff again were friendly but you could tell they were a bit more rushed. The reason for this I found when I was moved out into the shared area was that the patients here seemed a bit more critical. There was one lady who was being discharged after a few weeks of hospital stay and chemotherapy, one older lady who had infections that they just couldn’t shift, one who didn’t want to eat or drink anything and was just sleeping the whole time and another lady who had been in various hospitals for 6 months with all sorts of problems; she had her own carer with her on an evening and at night as she needed help going to the toilet and had a colostomy bag. They were all still nice enough patients but also more demanding so the staff were rushing a bit more. They did have some complaints about one of the nurses but she was the one who noticed my cannula wasn’t being used and was in wrong anyway and took it out for me so I was very happy with her. They didn’t have one of my medications though so I had to go without whilst I was there. Seems a bit daft since it’s all the same hospital!
I was there until midnight and then got moved again, this time down to the surgical ward. I can only assume I was put there because they had a space and the bed on ward 15 was needed; the doctors the next morning were very confused as to why I was on the surgical ward when I hadn’t had any surgery. This was definitely the worst ward I was on but thankfully was the last day I was there as well.
They did have my medication which was a step up from the previous one but they had no staff. The ward was the same size as all the others, 6 beds, but they had one male nurse and one female and that was it. The others had all had 3 or 4 nurses available. The male nurse was clearly looking after the male ward as well so he was rushing back and forth constantly. This was not helped by the fact that 2 of the patients on the ward couldn’t actually get to the toilet on their own. They both had incontinence pads on but of course didn’t want to use them if they didn’t have to so were regularly asking for the commode but the staff were so busy that at one point one had to wait over half an hour and she was pretty desperate. They were also told to wait at lunchtime because the female nurse was dishing out the dinners. I’m assuming there are regulations in place about it because she had disposable gloves on anyway for handing out the meals which she could’ve taken off, sorted out the commode, then put new ones on but I guess they’re not allowed to.
It didn’t help matters that these patients were generally a lot nastier as well. 2 were asleep most of the time so that was fine, I was my usual lovely self and there was a lady waiting to be discharged that was very polite though she did have some things to say about how the other 2 were having to wait for requests. She was very patient herself as she’d been told the day before she was being discharged but she didn’t actually get to leave until around 4.00pm that day due to waiting on an ambulance to take her home.
The other 2 patients though… oh dear. The one I could forgive a little, particularly as she had a social care assessment that afternoon and one thing she said was she knew she got impatient a lot but it’s because people say things like “Oh I understand” when they clearly don’t, or they just try to force things to work the way they want. She was mixed with the staff, mostly ok but sometimes got snappy. The other one though… oh good grief, she was like a toddler would be. From some of the things she was saying she may have had some mental health issues, past traumas or she may just be a very selfish person. She made people on the Jeremy Kyle show look like model civilians! The male nurse was also clearly from Africa originally; he still had an accent but she made constant comments about how “they” should choose names that “we” understand. I was there less than a day and knew his name within the hour, she had been there for a few days and hadn’t a clue what his name was, she kept just calling him Kieran when his name was actually Caleb. Add this to him being rushed off his feet and it’s not really a shock he didn’t leap to her every demand. She would rattle the bars on her bed when she wanted attention, shout, cry, everything but ask nicely.
It was a real eye opener being actually on the wards. The conversations you’d hear both between the nursing staff and the patients themselves show things you don’t see yourself. The fact different departments clearly had different resource issues wasn’t something I expected either; you’d think if one didn’t have the drug you needed that they could just go to the other departments or pharmacies but clearly not. Of course they can’t predict if staff call in sick which I assume is what happened on the surgical ward but you’d also think they would be able to shuffle people around. It’s different if they are specialists but from what I could see the majority of the nurses on the different wards were all doing the same checks and jobs.
They don’t help themselves with resources either. I was only there as long as I was because they wanted to do an echocardiogram to check my heart was ok. This was done after 3 nights of being an inpatient via a portable machine that they wheeled to the ward. Now I understand that they will have had actual appointments scheduled (I assume the hospital has a ‘static’ one in a room somewhere as well as the portable one) and that emergencies will have come in that needed it more than me but that’s 3 nights of me taking up a bed, medication, staff time and food that really wasn’t needed. My vital stats were all fine constantly so they could have easily had me in for 1 night only, done the heart check and made space for another patient.
The final thing is just to realise that we as patients can make a difference as well. A patient is essentially just a customer and no shop assistant wants to help a rude customer so the same goes with a patient. Yes it’s frustrating when you’re in pain, scared and feeling under the weather and you have to wait for something, yes you will want to snap at people and it’s going to happen. No one is perfect. But we do need to try and remember that the nursing staff want to help us, that’s why they’re in that job, but they also need to follow rules to keep their jobs and it’s not just you that they’re looking after but a whole range of other patients.