Saturday, July 17, 2010

With a Grateful Heart...

In the event that you have a loved one who is hospitalized, it is important to be grateful for the staff members who are caring for your family member or friend.  You have placed a great deal of trust into these individuals, and in a stressful moment, it is important to take inventory of what your are feeling. 

There are many people that make a hospital run, and you personally are not going to see them all.  However, without this team, your family member cannot receive the care they require.  So, remember to thank each individual that encounter for their participation in the overall care of your loved one.

Medical Staff:  These are usually the front line staff that most of us think of. 

-Physicians:  The Physician is the gatekeeper for the care of your loved one.  They are having to make decisions about the course of treatment and plan for the future.  They are often very busy as well.  Before you ask questions.....listen and take notes.  Most Physicians will then ask if you have questions.  Try to consolidate your thoughts and ask your questions. Sometimes, the hospital will have 'time out' periods when family and friends are asked to stay in the waiting room while they do Rounds.  When the Physician and staff go on "rounds" they often will go into the patient room and discuss the current status of the patient.  It is not that you cannot know what they are saying, but they need to speak freely and problem solve.  You will get to hear the summary of their discussion, so be patient. 

Questions that are appropriate to ask in general are:  "What is care plan for my family member?"  "What is the projected discharge date?"  Sometimes you also need to ask where the discharge location will be, it may not always be to the home depending on the circumstances. 

Thank the physician for caring for your family member.  They really are doing just that. 

-Nursing Staff:  These individuals are the eyes and ears for the physician.  They often have very technical training as well and can often answer questions for you as well.  If they defer your question to the physician, it is not because they are avoiding it.  It is because they need to let the gatekeeper do it. 

Nursing staff can include RN's, CRRN's, LPN's, PCT, etc and other various alphabet soup acronyms.  They have to take data from many sources and are required to multi-task.  If they are in the middle of something, try to wait if you need to discuss something.  It is okay to let them know you would like to visit with them.  They will administer medications, care for wounds, use diagnostic machinery etc.  They also provide many of the 'Activities of Daily Living" such as bathing, bringing meals etc.  Call them by name and thank them.  It goes a long way.

-Rehabilitation Staff:  This could include Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech-Language Pathologists, and Specialized Physicians.  They aren't always the most popular folks, because their job is to appropriately progress the patient.  This means, that your family member is going to have to most likely get out of bed and do things that are needful and challenging.  They should communicate clearly what the goals of treatment should be for your family member and also update you as to the status of that plan of care.

-Social Workers and Counselors:  These folks help with the emotional needs of the patient and family.  They also help with the discharge process and ensure that needed equipment, services, etc are in place when it is time to go.  Most hospitals also offer Chaplain services to address the spiritual side of care.  These folks are trained in family dynamics, grief counseling, and other specialized areas.
Backbone of the building staff:  These are the folks that make it possible for everyone listed so far to operate.  I"m not kidding about this.  Without them, none of it would be possible.  Who are they people?  Let's list some. 

-Dietary is where specialized meals are prepared 7 days a week.  They also stock all the refrigerators and cupboards so that you family member can have a snack or a soda when they ask for it.  They are required to ensure that any patient's special dietary needs are met, and there are a myriad of diet types that they need to careful prepare.  They deliver the meals to the floor, take the dishes back to the kitchen and clean all dishware in a highly specialized manner with very strict guidelines.  If you see one of these individuals, be sure the thank them....they are often unsung heroes. 

-Environmental Services (Housekeeping):  How ever grateful am I to these folks who quietly keep the hospital clean and sanitary.  They are often called upon to do the most unpleasant of tasks....with a cheerful attitude.  The other day, a very sweet housekeeper stopped mopping the floor to ask me how I was doing.  She asked me about my family member and just has a very sweet conversation with me.  I can't tell you how much I appreciated that little act of kindness.  You can be assured that I thanked her very much for coming into help in the care of our loved one.

-Maintenance & Engineering:  These folks make sure the specialized equipment, and the building are operating appropriately.  This includes HVAC, Fire code, power, repair, maintenance, etc.  The regulations are significant, so again, without these individuals, you loved one could not be cared for.  They also make sure your loved one has a television to watch.  Think about how any stay at the hospital would be without that service.

-Information Systems:  So many medical procedures, billing systems, and medical charting methods are computerized.  These folks ensure that the information is available and current 24/7.  You most likely will not see these folks, but know they are there. 

-Admitting and Billing:  These are the folks you meet at the beginning and will most likely continue to interact with you after the hospital stay.  They will interact with your Insurance Provider and also send you statements and help arrange payment plans if you need them.   Be courteous with these folks, they are trying to make things go according to plan as well.

-Volunteers:  These folks certainly are not last, but they often fill in the gaps with sweetness, kindness, and patience.
I apologize if I have missed anyone, but by now I hope that you can see why you need to be grateful to the many individuals that make the care of your loved one possible.  Not every hospital stay is ideal for all.  Sometimes there are outcomes that nobody wishes.  However, these folks who are working to help make the outcome as positive as possible.  A verbal 'thank you' or a note are always appropriate.  They are there to serve you and your family member. 

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