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January 19, 2012

24 Hours In The ER

I've begun watching BBC America's 24 "Hours In The ER". Not only do they tell the saga of individuals admitted to the ER, they also interview hospital staff, from doctors and nurses to technicians. I've only seen 3 episodes, but I'm hooked.

It's the little touches, the unvarnished truths regarding human nature, and the trouble that people make for themselves that make this show for me. I guess I can relate, since working in the hospital has exposed me to the best and the worst in people. One detail in "24 Hours In The ER" is a sign on the wall that says roughly "please be polite (or patient or kind), we are trying to help you."

I know that now one is at their best when they are in the hospital. That goes for both patients and their very distressed families. Nurses are pulled in so many directions, handling not only mundane tasks, but also attending to crises and the idiosyncratic demands of a few patients. It amazes me they haven't snatched all the hair out of their heads. More often than not, all employees in a hospital are patient, caring, and hard-working. Every person and the work they do, from doctors to house-keeping, play vital roles in keeping the hospital operating smoothly and seamlessly.

I have found that I use those words from that sign, "please understand, we're trying to help you," when patients become agitated because of the things I ask them to do as part of my job as a physical therapist. These words help calm people, and, if they do not, it falls to me to find out why a patient becomes upset. An example, a patient with a blood clot in his leg refuses any kind of PT intervention. He is vehement that he knows he should not move (which only creates more opportunity for blood clot formation) and that I trying to kill him. We give patients 3 opportunities to refuse PT intervention services before taking them off our treatment list, just in case they are having a bad day or a have a change of heart as they feel better. This individual becomes verbally abusive and I wouldn't put it past him to begin throwing things at me if I darken his doorway again.

Later, I found out through his wife that his father, terminal with lung cancer, had been diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg. Faithful to his generation's willingness to follow doctors' orders, he dutifully performed his exercises. The blood clot broke free, became an embolism, traveled to his lung and lodged there. He died the next day. That episode is the basis for his son's fear and hostility. It is these kinds of emotional stories that "24 Hours In The ER" tells so well.

Posted by linda at January 19, 2012 7:40 AM

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