Friday, 15 May 2009

Sam: Hospital Survival Guide

If you ever have the unfortunate experience of being in hospital for a long stretch of time, or know someone who is about to, the following points might just help. Memorise all of them.

Firstly, and most importantly, ask for what you want. I asked for Morphine, and much to my surprise, I got it. I probably ended up keeping half the farmers in Afghanistan in business, which I think was a fair trade. They make a living, and I wasn't living in pain.

Second point: always remember that you are in a queue. So just before you're about to whack the button for attention, take a deep breath into the bottom of your stomach, and count to ten. Because there are probably thirty other people whacking the button at the same time, and the nurses are doing their best to get to you. If you were in a queue at the bank, would you shout "Get the fuck out of the way and give me my fucking money right now"? No. You'd wait.

Third point: throw round lots of mackerel. No, I'm not still on the morphine - it's a lesson I learned from What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love and Marriage by Amy Sutherland, which is one of the best books I've read about human and animal psychology for as long as I can remember. Basically, because NHS staff get treated like shit by higher authorities - and distressingly, even by some of the people who they're looking after - they're deprived of mackerel (i.e., positive feedback). I find that by merely saying 'please' and 'thank you', you find very quickly that they're happy to do what you want.

Fourth point: understand the structure of the ward. The nurses don't really have the power to change anything - you'll have to get hold of a doctor for that. So don't harass them when you know they can't do anything about it.

Fifth point: find a spot for everything. Not because your essential items will get nicked - they just disappear. Particularly the stuff that keeps you alive, and fends off boredom.

Sixth point, and very important: pull your weight. If there's anything you can do for yourself, do it. Every bit of help you give the staff, they will pay it back twenty times over.


True Lateral said...

Thanks Sam, especially for that last point. I frequently encounter cases of pyjama-induced-paralysis, where previously mobile people become unable to do anything once they get into a hospital bed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sam, it's nice to see you appreciate hospital staff, I feel so little people do!!

However, I'm not sure I agree with your comment about nurses not having the power to change anything. True,nurses are unable to prescribe medications etc (unless they train as Advanced Nurse Practitioners), but I do feel people need to stop seeing nurses as dumb hand-maidens who carry out doctors' orders without a bean about what they are doing.

As a doctor who first trained as a nurse I found I knew a hell of a lot more than a lot of my medical colleagues having come from a nursing background. Nurses generally direct care behind the scenes.

I hope your rehab is going well. :)

Anonymous said...

I read the bit about nurses not being able to change anything to be more about the conditions and staffing on the ward so don't shout at them because you're pissed off.

As a nurse I salute your lovely little post and hope that you are feeling much better.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you back, Sam! You've been missed. x

Anonymous said...
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Kriss said...

Glad you're better and back.

The nurses doing my aunt's cancer treatment were very good, listened to her and have ensured that her comments about her care were passed on to people who could make changes. It's always worth saying something - you never know whether your comment is the first one, or the umpteenth that will finally prompt some action.

Tuppy said...

What about sex? Perhaps you're not feeling like it but can you ask for privacy to wank. or fuck your partner?

One of my sex worker friends who has a lot of dying patients complains that she's never given the opportunity to give them the last moments of intimacy.