I went to the emergency department this week, on my family doctor’s advice, he said I needed to be seen by a neurologist right away and going to emergency would be the best place to get care and treatment. I found neither.
There was a waiting room full of patients waiting for care…they eventually saw a doctor but I wouldn’t go as far as saying they ever saw any caring. While I was getting an ECG, the nurse had me lay down on the table, she yanked my shirt and bra up to my throat and placed the electrodes, leaving my chest fully exposed….while I don’t have much of a chest I would have appreciated a blanket to cover the little bit I do, especially as other staff came in and out of the room, had conversations and pulled the curtain back twice exposing me to those walking by in the hall. I was then sent to the “Patient sitting area” where twelve other patients were sitting on hard uncomfortable chairs. We waited for four hours before any of us saw a nurse or doctor to order tests or ask questions. No one ever came to ask how any of the patients were doing, in fact patients had to call a nurse as I helped pick someone up off the floor who had gotten dizzy and fallen on the way to the bathroom. The nurse got up from the nurses station helped me get the patient standing, asked if he was okay and then she returned to the nurses station to take her seat as he went into the bathroom to throw up.
I saw nurses become annoyed as patients asked how much longer it would be or if there was any progress, after hours of sitting waiting with no contact at all by staff. When I did get sent for a CTscan I was again told to lay down on the table, no warning given when he adjusted the position of my head from behind me, luckily I knew what to expect but I thought of how scary that experience would be for someone who had no idea. Then I was to wait again. I didn’t mind the waiting, I understand how busy doctors and nurses get. It also gave me an opportunity to get a warm blanket or a bowl for patients who were cold or needed to throw up. The nurses were all busy in the nurses station. In the 7 hours I sat there, unless it was to relay a message to go to xray, take blood or give discharge orders, I never heard a staff member talk to a patient. No one asked if they were okay, if they needed anything, or anything else that would seem remotely compassionate.
Patients were given information about their condition, discharge instructions and other information right in front of the other patients waiting in the hall. Questions were dismissed, orders were rushed and each of the 12 patients there left without feeling they had any answers, any caring, any compassion shown to them. I know because they talked about it as they sat there. It was not the wait that bothered them it was the feeling that they weren’t cared about, weren’t listened to and weren’t helped. 10 of the 12 patients were told to follow up with their family doctor (many of us had been sent to see the doctor in emergency by the family doctor). Not one specialist was consulted, not one answer was given.
I wish that nurses today would take a lesson from Florence Nightingale. It is meant to be a profession of compassion, caring and listening. Nurses used to spend time at the bedside, fluffing pillows, offering warm blankets and glasses of water. Those days seem to be gone and it has become a profession of paper work, computers and pills. While technology is a great thing and saves many lives, compassion is really what it is meant to be all about and I wish someone somewhere would bring compassion and care back to the health care world. If there aren’t enough staff to offer compassion, then we need to hire “compassion” workers to fill that need. We need to train and remind healthcare professionals that caring is really part of their job and is the most important treatment they can give.