Hospitalization is a reality. It will happen to most of us, for one reason or another. It gets more common as age increases. The hospitalization process can be risky. There are specialized medications being given and invasive procedures performed. Regardless of the training and capabilities of the physicians and the watchful eyes and caring hands of nurses there will be side effects that might threaten the life or well being of a patient.
The first piece of advise is never to be confrontational with the hospital staff. In many occasions healthcare workers are working at the limit of their capabilities. Adding more stress to an already stressful situation by nature (which the hospitalization is) will only create negative feelings towards the patients and families. Healthcare workers are human beings and although they have been trained to be non-judgmental and to treat everyone equally, they are also human beings and have emotions of their own.
A second piece of advise is to make sure that all information about the hospitalization process is understood and that decisions are made together with the doctor. Patients and families sometimes fail to answer the questions because “the doctor already rounded and we missed him or her”. It is the physician’s duty as the one ordering the treatments to inform the progress to the patient’s and/or families. Nurses know how to locate physicians and they will do it upon patient’s or family’s request.
Last, but not least, what do you do in case, in spite of multiple efforts to comprehend what is going on in the hospitalization process, things are not understood? At this point, what is needed is the intervention of the primary care provider (or even a third party physician patient advocate). Nowadays, there are more and more hospitalist services and the primary providers are staying away from the hospital scene. The primary provider or a private physician patient advocate would be able to interact with the hospital personnel and explain the issues to the patient and family afterwards.
The hospitalization process is complicated, but communication is key to a successful outcome. Barriers to effective communication can convert an already difficult situation into a worse one.
Marco A. Ramos MD