One of the worst things I think someone can experience is feeling like they don’t have a voice or say in what is going on with their own body. And as someone who has had to spend far too many nights in the hospital, I can honestly say that the hospital is truly one of the worst places to be in that respect. Two of my best friends (/sisters) are in the hospital now so my mind has been flooded with emotions about that wretched place. Without going into detail about their situations, I wanted to talk about some of the misconceptions that people think about being a patient in the hospital.
For people who have been fortunate enough to never need to be hospitalized, or only need to be in the hospital for something minor, the hospital seems like a place of true comfort and safety. After all, from an outside perspective it really does seem like a place where you come, you rest, you’re taken care of by wonderfully considerate nurses and warm doctors, you have your sheets changed and your room cleaned, you have food brought to you in bed, you are doped up on pain medicine 24/7 … what is there to complain about, right?
What television shows and movies fail to depict is the true reality of what goes on inside a hospital.
I want to also preface this by saying that I was treated at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, which is a one of the best hospitals… and I STILL dealt with this, every single time I stepped foot into what I now refer to as “the torture chamber.”
Protocol: Every single medical personnel is worried about having their license taken away or being sued. In an effort to avoid that, patients are put through an inordinate amount of tests and procedures to make sure that every possible thing is covered, regardless if it is at the detriment of the patient’s physical or emotional well being. For starters, every morning, whether you need it or not a patient’s blood is drawn bright and early. Same goes for vitals (blood pressure and temperature every four hours or so). It took me years before I realized how absurd this was and started asking doctors what they were actually checking for when they were putting me through hell trying to find a vein every day. Most of the time, the answer was that they didn’t know or that it was just standard, or that some random doctor ordered it so that he/she could see it with their own eyes. It was then that I started refusing certain things. It got to be so bad that between the hours of 4am-10am when they did rounds, every time the door opened I would start freaking out because someone would come in with needles or need to touch me and put me through countless unnecessary things just for the sake of covering their behinds.
Lack of communication: I was very lucky in that I had doctors and parents who were ALWAYS on top of things for me and even then, the amount of micromanaging I had to do was outrageous. I needed to consistently make sure I wasn’t given incorrect medications, was being told everything that was going to be done and for what reason, and also make sure that the countless medical personnel that walked into my room every day were on the same page. Orders were changed without my knowledge all of the time, and it was also usually after spending hours (sometimes days) fighting to get my point across with the appropriate physician.
Loss of Dignity: The moment I became a patient, my dignity was thrown out of the window. I was no longer a person; I was just patient X who was under the care of Dr. so and so, in RM whatever, being treated for this condition. I would have doctors storm into my room (who I had never met before) at all hours of the day/night and just lift up my hospital gown or shirt, push on my stomach or touch my incision when about five people had done the exact same thing seven times just in that same hour, tell me to have a fantastic day, and walk out never to be heard from again. AHH, NOT OKAY! AND NOT NECESSARY!
I never had a problem speaking up for myself but whenever I was in the hospital, I became a completely different person. The more I think about this, the more I realize that I didn’t start out this way in the least bit.
My very first hospitalization was just a few weeks following my ulcerative colitis diagnosis. I was a very spunky 13 year old and carried that with me as a patient for years. But as the years went by and I continued to see that no matter how much I tried to speak up for myself and it never ever mattered, my whole outlook changed. I no longer looked at doctors and hospitals as a place that would provide care and comfort. It is sad actually because I do know that doctors generally go into the medical field because they want to help people! But it is some combination of the system and the lack of common sense/bedside manner of many physicians that makes me cringe.
All I ever wanted, and all I know any patient wants when they enter any hospital is to be treated with respect and to work WITH someone to come up with a treatment plan that is best for them…. given that it is their body, their life, their mind that is enduring so much, and seeing that they have every right to do so, I can’t fathom why hospitals continue to operate in this fashion.