A Happy Hospital Story

For background, see here, here, and here

This morning, my father, brother, and I met with several St. Michael’s staff, including the director of the medical staff and the director of the nursing staff. It was a very cordial and informative meeting for me, and I hope it was for everyone else. We all left the room on the same side, so I’d call that success.

Of course, one thing that helped from our point of view was that the St. Michael’s staff was obviously very upset that such things had happened and were anxious to tell of us ways they’d already worked on to prevent such in the future. This, basically, is what we wanted.

The nursing supervisor on duty when my step-mom fell was devastated that something like that had happened on her watch.

We, as patients, learned a lot about how some hospital systems work. For example, we learned that when we need to call a nurse to be sure to say what we need, as they can get the message to the right person more quickly.

The director of medical staff explained some of the problems they were having implementing a hospitalist program and contracting with a separate firm for ER physicians. It was quite honest of him to say that these two groups of physicians do not always cooperate in a timely manner and explained how the hospital was working on this problem.

When we asked whether charges for the x-ray after the fall would be included in the bill, we were told it didn’t matter whether they were or not. Now this was upsetting at first – it seemed like the hospital was not taking responsibility for something they admitted was their fault.

But we were oh so wrong. That’s not it at all. My step-mom has Medicare and no matter what tests or procedures or how long she was in the hospital, they were going to paid the same, based on her problem at admission. To my way of thinking, that just ain’t right.

The final conclusion I have come to is that if the hospital staff had all got together and planned to have my father and step-mom treated as they were, they could not have planned it to be quite as bad as it was. These episodes are likely random ones and we were the unlucky family that lost the coin flip twice in a row.

9 thoughts on “A Happy Hospital Story

  1. I’m glad you all came away feeling the meeting was a success. I am not sure I believe these were just random / coin-flip occurrences, though. Too many systemic failures for that to be the case.

    “We, as patients, learned a lot about how some hospital systems work. For example, we learned that when we need to call a nurse to be sure to say what we need, as they can get the message to the right person more quickly.”
    In my limited experience as a patient / family member during hospital stays, I’ve found that it’s usually easier to accomplish this when the bed-side call button is actually plugged in and operational.

    But assuming that hurdle has been successfully cleared, seems to me that it is the hospital staff’s job to find out what is needed when the call button is pressed. I hope I’m mis-interpreting what you wrote, but it reads (to me) as if they gave the impression that their response speed is based on the amount of detail the patient is willing to give over what is usually a public address system audible to anyone and everyone within earshot of the nurses’ station. I hope I’m just interpreting that incorrectly due to lack of caffeine at this hour.

    At any rate, I’m glad everyone came away happy. I only hope the changes they made will apply to *all* of their patients, and not just the ones whose offspring have blogs.

  2. None of the staff denied systemic failures. They spent a lot of time telling us what they’d done to fix them already and what they planned to do and have hopes to do in the future.

    The tidbit about the patient being specific when calling for help, came up during the conversation about trouble getting a timely response to her calls after the call button was fixed. For example, if the patient needs help getting out of bed, a nurses aide can do that. If it’s pain meds, they need it’s going be an RN. If the need is unknown, the clerk pages everyone on the floor — which we discussed as giving everyone who gets the page, a sense that someone else will take it.

    They weren’t defending any of their systems as perfect, and I could see the notes being taken (as in see well enough to read some of them) and it looked to me like they were taking our concerns and suggestions very seriously.

    One change was specifically instructing the nursing staff to get a different bed if one wasn’t working (Janet’s bed was defective after being plugged in) and NOT to have maintenance attempt to fix it, especially during the night shift. We even discussed getting “volunteer” patient input before new types of beds were purchased. (I have always hated the particular type of electronic bed they have, and it seems to be the “favored” type of several hospitals I’ve been in or visited patients in.

    Another specific change was the use of voice mail for administrative staff. More of those calls are now being transferred to assistants or the administrative switchboard, so there’s not a day’s wait until somebody gets back to their office.

    I think, had you been there, you would have felt good about the meeting too. And I wish you had been, you would have thought of things to ask that we missed.

  3. The fact the hospital took the time to meet with you – and talk to you – and assure you that they were working hard to address these issues is a very good thing. My experience is that the family members of the patient must work hard to advocate for the patient.

    However, I will say, I don’t think hospitals “plan” for such terrible bedside manner – but for it to happen as you described what happened to your stepmom, that’s pretty bad, even if inadvertent. But when such things happen, the staff needs to be informed in a collaborative manner to make sure no other patient will be subjected to such negative behaviors going forward. Sounds like you and your family did a great job in the advocacy position.

  4. Anne, thanks for your comment. Again, I obviously did not make myself clear (I’m beginning to think I’m just a lousy writer.)

    What I meant to convey was that IF there had been a plan to provide two examples of poor care/service it would not have resulted in something quite this bad. Sort of a joke, and sort of a comment on the random inefficiencies that showed up at the same time in the same place.

  5. Donna! You know what? I wasn’t even referring to your “plan” when I inserted my “plan” into my response! I was just meaning to say (in my own meandering and confusing way) that bad performance is never “the plan” for any business but that what happened to your family was a hospital showcasing exceptionally poor performance. Good thing they’re working on it!

  6. Regardless of the reasons and causes it’s good that you’ve blogged about the experience. It will help others, both future patients and possibly anyone looking for some constructive criticism…

    “Sort of a joke, and sort of a comment on the random inefficiencies that showed up at the same time in the same place.”

    Oh and I totally got your joke! When it rains it pours huh?

Leave a Reply