IT’S only the start of 2018 and we’re already seeing record numbers of patients waiting on trollies in our hospitals, despite all the promises that things were going to improve.
It’s like groundhog-day. There isn’t a day goes by when we’re not talking about patient waiting lists or hospital overcrowding.
We hear so many heart-breaking stories, it’s easy to see why people get worked up. We are angry and frustrated and that’s understandable, but we need to be careful who we blame.
Nurses are operating at the coal face, so they often end up being on the receiving end of the abuse. They do their best in difficult circumstances, but not everybody appreciates that.
A few months ago, my mother fell down a flight of stairs at home in the early hours of the morning. She crawled back upstairs to get her phone to call me.
When I got to her, there was a lot of blood on the floor and the wall at the bottom of the stairs. She had a significant gash on the top of her head where she hit something on the way down.
It was about 5.30am when I contacted the emergency services and they arrived quickly. A paramedic attended to her at the house and an ambulance brought her to the CUH.
These people knew their job and each of them was professional, efficient and caring. They did well.
I followed on to the CUH a little later and when I arrived at the Accident & Emergency Department, I thought I had landed in a war zone. The place was heaving. There were nurses, doctors, patients on trollies, more on chairs, family members, cleaners and porters moving trollies here and there.
Some of the wounded were bleeding, some moaning, some covered in bandages. All of them had one thing in common, they needed help. They were broken and wanted to be fixed.
I took a seat as instructed and waited for my mother to make an appearance from one of the many doors. I was watching what was going on around me and I realised that what looked initially like chaos, was anything but.
The staff moved around unhurried but determined. They had things to do and places to go and patients were being dealt with systematically and efficiently.
Medicines, pills and potions were administered, bandages, splints and plasters were applied, x-rays were taken. It was a hive of activity but there was no panic.
The staff kept everyone informed about what was happening and what the next step in the process was going to be.
It was all very organised and when the time came for us to leave, I asked if I could leave my mother where she was until I could get the car out of the car park and find a space close to the entrance.
A nurse pointed to a side door and told me to bring the car there and she would bring my mother out to me. This was really helpful and made things so much easier for us.
Accident and emergency departments are busy places. As the name suggests, they are the first point of contact for people when things go pear-shaped. The staff must be ready for anything and they never know who or what is going to come through the doors.
It’s a difficult and stressful environment to be working in at the best of times but when you add the shortage of staff and hospital beds into the mix, then it gets even tougher. Because of that, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find tempers flared and patience in short supply. But it was the opposite.
Everyone was pleasant. Doctors introduced themselves to their patients by their Christian names and, while this might seem insignificant, I think it makes a big difference to the patient. It reassures them that the care is going to be personal. A nice touch.
The nurse who helped me was busy. I’m sure there were other, more important issues that required her attention, but she took the time to arrange an easier exit from the hospital. It was a bit of consideration that went a long way and was greatly appreciated.
My mother had a subsequent visit to the South Infirmary Victoria Hospital for an overnight stay while she underwent some tests and we had a similar experience there. The nursing staff were busy, and beds didn’t stay empty for too long. When one patient left, the vacant bed was quickly filled.
The staff were constantly on the move and I wondered if they ever got a break. Whether they did or they didn’t, they never let it affect their professionalism. They were always friendly, reassuring, caring and smiling.
At one point, a woman was being admitted to the same ward my mother was in. This lady had a huge issue. She didn’t want to be there. She told anyone who would listen to her that she thought the hospital was a dump. She demanded a private room and wanted an electric bed. She said the food was awful, but I don’t think she ate anything.
She couldn’t sit in the chair beside the bed because it wasn’t at the right height and it didn’t have a cushion and she couldn’t use the bathroom because it was too far away. In fact, it was right next to her.
Through all her whinging and complaining, different nurses came and looked after her. They all smiled and, I’m sure, bit their tongues while promising to do whatever they could to make her life better. She was a king-sized, ungrateful pain in the arse but she didn’t break them.
They do a great job and deserve a lot of credit, but it seems that not everyone appreciates them.