8.07.2007

No Rest for the Inflicted

Nice little essay from the New York Times about how little rest you get in a hospital. At my hospital most patients get single rooms which helps, but we do tend to bug them at relentless intervals. The computer that times out medications for what seems like every hour is one culprit -- I have often retimed medication passes to cluster my care -- that said, we do tend to gab a bit loud at the nurses station and forget what it is like to be on the other side.

"Every interaction, no matter how brief, takes energy, something many patients have very little of, even while we try to be as pleasant as our pain, weariness and fear allow...

But sleep proved frustratingly elusive. Cellphones rang day and night. Patients, nurses, physicians and visitors talked loudly. Outside our window, cranes whined and clanked on a construction site, and workers’ voices clearly carried up five floors.

Add to this ambient noise the daily crowd moving in and out of our room. Someone asking if I wanted television, phone or Internet service, a chaplain, phlebotomists coming to take blood, the young woman changing our linens, orderlies, the janitor and ever-changing nurses.

Almost everyone had a question that needed answering, and quickly, not easy when you’re scared, tired, in pain or heavily medicated. Each encounter required my attention, a decision and my civility at the least. No one wants to be the monosyllabic “difficult” patient, but it takes a lot of energy to be friendly to so many people... Several of those unplanned visits offered great comfort, like a young male nurse offering me hot tea and a turkey sandwich at 3 a.m. and a gentle 15-year nursing veteran who swaddled my aching chest to ease the pain. But the next time I really need a rest, I’m going to try to stay home."

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