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The Hospital Chronicles

Perel Grossman

“You are dee best Jewvish family vee have here!” pronounces Pravahandra Ravichandricharn, RN. I can’t believe it. We are a clan of frustrated doctors, professional worriers, medical name-droppers, late-comers, hypochondriacs, and not a few know-it-alls. And I am no exception.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

1) My father’s name is Mr. Censor. It’s not Bernard; it’s certainly not Bernie, and it most assuredly is not honey, sweetheart, or dear. He’s got a good 40 to 60 years on you and a lot of wisdom and life experience (and millions of mitzvos and maasim tovim). So please, call him Mr. Censor. Thank you.

2)      I know you work hard. I know you need a break from time to time from your grinding twelve-hour shift. Go right ahead and chat while writing notes about your patients. But if I come running out into the hall, flushed and shaking, calling “Estrella! Taqueenia! Victoria Mary!” in my most obsequious tone of screech, it means something is wrong and I need your help. I do not enjoy disturbing you. I know that you are busy.  But please, if my loved one is gasping or struggling, or if I fear that a rather important tube is blocked up, come quickly.

3) Knowledge is power. Or, at least, it makes us relatives feel a little less powerless. When you, the nurse, give us, The Clueless, information about the patient’s condition, the latest test results, or news of any medication change, we are so grateful. I can’t tell you how grateful. But maybe a box of Zeishe’s vanilla rugelach will help explain it.

4) I know that you, the capable nursing staff, have passed many really tough tests during your years of schooling, ending with the infamous N-CLEX exam. But I propose that a new type of test be administered: a hearing test. 

Let me explain.

I could certainly understand it if you missed the gentle, sonorous tone of the medication pump reporting an error of some kind. And, I assume, with my rich and infinite knowledge of the field of medicine, that this does not indicate a radical emergency. I can even overlook the way most of you tend to ignore the dulcet “bong” of the Nurse Call button. [The AMA is considering renaming it the “Do Not Disturb” indicator.]

But it is hard to believe that you can’t hear the very loud, insistent beep of the ventilator indicating that there is some major problem with the flow of air to the patient’s lungs.  

Not only does no one seem to hear the beep, but, in addition, the nurse does not seem to hear me call her; not the first time, nor the second. The third time, a desperate kind of yodel seems to do the trick. Now, I know what you’ll tell me — the patient can survive just fine for a stretch of time, even with this kind of issue. But the question is: Can I?

5) One might foolishly assume that a typical hospital offers a dim, muted environment where someone ill might have the chance to recuperate in peace. Wrong. Very wrong. Aside from the regular 3 a.m. wake-up call to administer sleeping meds, there are other factors that keep those who are sick from the serenity that they deserve.

Now, I will be the first to admit that sharing a joke and laughing with friends is beneficial. I’m all for a good guffaw. I would suggest, however, that the nursing staff be a little less boisterous. Especially in the ICU, where they seem especially jolly. Maybe it’s the stress, or the sadness around them, but still, folks … you’ve got seriously ill patients there, often hanging on by a thread. Gray-faced relatives huddle together in halls, hugging one another, teary-eyed. But over at the nurse’s station, you’d think it was a holiday. Loud, booming voices, uproarious laughter.… One day, I even overhead (it was hard not to) a staff member bellow out, “A dollar and a dream, baby!” as she took up a collection for lottery tickets.   

And, of course, some of these same nurses will practically bite your head off if they spot you whispering quietly on your cell phone at the door of the patient’s room. Your crime? Toe extension. Yes, the digit of your foot toe was sticking out into the hall. A full inch.

But don’t let them catch you speaking further inside the room, either. Nooo … that may disturb the patient.

Ya think?


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