Hospital Follies

Yes, I’m posting live from Texas Women’s Hospital. It’s been a non-thrilling past couple of days, hanging out here during J’s annual surgery. J is fine, and doing much better than she was last time we did this. I have noticed a couple of things that have irritated me.

One is the complete inability of the nursing staff to operate the machinery hooked up to the patients. J was hooked up to some machine that monitored oxygen levels and pulse rates. Not one single person seemed able to shut the goddamned thing up when it started alarming or beeping. The only answer was to turn the machine off and back on, which reset it to all the default settings. The default settings make the machine beep at each pulse. This is not the answer when the patient is trying to sleep after surgery. It would also alarm when J’s pulse dipped below some arbitrary pre-set level, which had nothing to do with J’s chart or anything else. Of course, when it alarmed, I’ll give you three guesses as to what the nursing staff did. If your first guess was ‘nothing’, I’ll give you the grand prize. If your guess was ‘made excuses’, I’ll give you the consolation prize. The machine wasn’t networked into any kind of telemetry system, so the only people that know it’s going off are the people in the room, who called the nursing staff. Said staff then did nothing. The nurses couldn’t even figure out how to shut off the default beep at every pulse setting. The front panel of the machine has 5 buttons and a jog dial. This is not a complex device in terms of the controls. It was left to me to make it shut up. My medical training, like that of most military veterans, consists of immediate trauma response. I’m of the splint, bandage, tourniquet school of medicine. If you have a sucking chest wound in need of immediate stabilization, come see me. I am not up on electronic monitoring devices. Yet somehow, I can figure out the device that baffles the collection of licensed, trained professionals. I ended up having to shut off the default beep setting, using the jog dial. The alarm was dealt with by adjusting the settings so that J’s pulse was within the limits. All of these settings were easily figured out with about 30 seconds of study by me. Maybe I’m just smarter than the nurses. Or maybe I care more, since it’s my wife that can’t sleep.

The other thing is the bizarre state of IT in the hospital. There are wireless networks ahoy and computers all over the freaking place. Yet certain portions of the process require an interested party (i.e. me) to go and get people to write things down on pieces of paper. They then hide some of the paper and give out other pieces of paper. The pieces of paper then get walked down to someone else who looks at it and does something else. A freaking network would solve all of these pieces of paper, now wouldn’t it? Hell, the admitting office can’t even do an electronic charge of a credit card. They have to write down the card number and bill it later. It’s the 21st century, people. I shouldn’t have to be doing this kind of crap. Hell, even my company has enough scanners and other equipment that I can get signed documents distributed electronically to everybody relevant, and I literally work out of a double-wide trailer. Oh, excuse me, a “dual-sized manufactured modular office space”, i.e. a freaking double-wide. If we can get our act together, surely a major medical facility can pull it off.

Finally, you have to prod the people here to get things done. I sure would hate to be here without somebody to watch out for my interests. Everyone has been perfectly nice, but overall the quality of care has been less than spectacular. There's a tendency to come in, get halfway through something, and walk out. Examples include the blood pressure check where someone came in, put the blood pressure cuff on, got the reading, and walked out leaving the cuff on her arm. Never came back for the unit, either. Or the IV removal where the nurse told J "Now apply pressure and I'll be right back," and left for parts unknown and didn't return until we paged the nursing desk after 10 minutes. They'll also argue with you about the problem. "I just left for minute." Yeah, 15 minutes ago. Both of us can tell time, don't try to argue. Frankly, I've gotten better nursing care in a MASH when we were in tents and had to shelter in place because of missile attacks. These people are in a modern medical facility and can't be bothered to give a rat's ass.

Anyhow, we’re going home today, so all this will be an annoying memory.


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