Sunday, 3 June 2012

Young hospital visitors

Childrens art work adorns her bedside table.  Photos of grandchildren beam down on her.  She's stuck within herself, but mention the pictures and her eyes light up.  It's a way to talk to her, to get her to open up.

We often have young visitors to the hospital, they liven up the area, and bring some of our patients 'to life'.  I love seeing them, although probably because at heart I wish to be a paediatrician.

One thing I feel we all have a duty to, is to look after these wee visitors.  A pen and piece of paper to a bored looking 6 year old.  A glass of water to a hot and tired toddler.  A kind word to a pre-teen.  A smile.  These are our patients of the future, and it's their experiences of the hospital as a visitor, that will as much as anything affect their access to services later in life.

Nothing spelt this out more to me than a recent visiting time.  A warm, quiet afternoon, no reason to suspect what came next.  Sat at the nursing station, the emergency buzzer sounded.  Two nurses run past to the location.  Unusually, this was a real call.  The wheels swung into motion.  The crash trolley wheeled to the patients bedside.  An emergency call out to the 'crash team'.  Screens protect the scene, a security officer stands.  Staff hurrying, scurrying, running.  Fetching equipment, information.  More staff arriving.

Stood at the nursing station gathering information, I noticed the little girl opposite, suddenly I see the scene through her eyes.  Scared.  Not understanding what was happening, but realising something big was.  Her relatives not reassuring, not knowing the little girl had noticed, not understanding what they were seeing.

I realised that what I was doing for the patient may or may not have the effect I wanted, but what I could do was have a massive impact on what that little girl took away with her.  I slowed my step.  I relaxed my shoulders, the expression on my face.  I smiled.  Things which made seconds in difference to me and the patient, but had the ability to have a much greater impact on the little girl and other relatives on the ward.

A short while later, the team drift away.  Two members of staff walk past, one with tears slowly running down her face.  A shake of the head.  Again the atmosphere changes.  I continue on with jobs, walking the corridor multiple times.

'Thank you' says her mum.  'Here's your pen, thank you'.


We're on ward round, and I look across to my colleague.  She's playing with her phone.  I then realise she's not texting or reading a text, but is playing a game.  'Oh', she says, 'I'm just sending my Sims to work, I forgot to do it before'.  A senior is talking to a patient, a sober moment, when his phone rings, 'I just need to get this' he says and slips out of the curtained area.

Moments which seem to happen day in and day out.

Mobile phones and technology are intruding on our everyday life, but how far should this be allowed to happen during working hours?  Should we be able to answer phones and messages?  Should we be allowed to play simple games, Sims, farm style games?  Should we be allowed to check emails, surf the internet, 'Facebook', or any one of the things which technology now allows us to do?

I feel I need my phone.  Sure, Little Miss's nursery have my bleep number, they can contact me through that.  But what if they forget which hospital I'm at?  What my bleep number is?  They are also more likely to start by contacting my phone.  For them, what if I'm not at work that day?  They're not to know that any day I have off I take Little Miss out of nursery and we have fun.  So I feel it's an easy line to my daughter.  To allow nursery to contact me, and for me not to worry about her whilst I'm at work.  It's my security

Anyone else who phones gets a very few tearse words, stating that I'm at work, and it's inappropriate for me to talk!  If it's that urgent they'll call back, leave a message or send a text.

As I've mentioned, I've recently discovered that I can use the internet on my phone.  It's a revelation!  But anything I need during working hours can be found using the work computers and internet.  And, maybe that's the crux of my problem with my colleague playing Sims at work.  Maybe I just don't understand it.  Maybe it just doesn't hold the same influence over how I start my day, how I need to spend my time.  And for that, I'm proud.