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'.

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