Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Audrey - Is our Health System failing us?

Audrey is my sister-in-law, my husband’s sister. Audrey looked after our house and pets whilst we were on holidays. Unfortunately 10 days before we were due home, Audrey had a serious car accident as she was leaving our house for a day out. It was a case of car verses bus, needless to say the bus won. Audrey sustained serious injuries which included a compound facture of her left ankle, actually shattered ankle, and a dislocated and fractured left wrist together with multiple bruising. She was treated in a trauma unit in a major hospital. We were notified of her accident as well as her other siblings whilst in the UK. It is very difficult when you are overseas trying to obtain information about a loved one in such a condition. However after several days of concern, Audrey was recovering, she is lucky to be alive.

Audrey won’t mind me saying she is 72 years old; however she does object when I call her old, so I won’t say she is old. I asked Audrey to smile for the photo as I was going to put it on the blog, and I can not have a sad sack on. However you can imagine this is very distressing to anyone let alone a 72yr old who really has not been sick and is in generally good health and self sufficient. This sort of accident would rock you to your boots.
Audrey was told that she would have months of rehabilitation and would not be able to walk for at least 3mths. This strong self sufficient woman has now been told that she will be staying in hospital and relying on the system until she is well. This is a lot to take in. So now what do we do, we move her from the trauma unit to a regional hospital, I hear you saying what’s wrong with that? Ok you discuss it first and then make a plan and notify the family and then move. No this is not what happened to Audrey, someone came into the room packed up her things, put her on a stretcher and transferred her, just like that. Audrey arrived at the regional hospital traumatised, upset, crying and nervous. The staff were wonderful, reassured her, comforted her and called her daughters who were very upset to see their mother so upset and in pain.
Was this necessary? What adverse effects will this have on Audrey’s recovery?
Audrey settles, her family are about 20 mins away and have organised a roster system to provide constant support for their mother. She begins to recover much quicker and feels that her support network is in place.
Then several days later she is told she is moving and is moved that afternoon, very much the same way as before, no warning to a hospital that is now 45 mins away from her family and they can only visit in the afternoon. Audrey’s mood drops; she feels isolated, lonely, away from her family and shares a room with three other women whose needs are greater than hers. When she rings the bell it may take the staff 15mins before they answer, that’s enough time to wet yourself especially when you are 72. Goodness I have problems when I need to go without having to hang on for 15 mins and the rest it would take to get the bed pan etc. She feels she is a bother to the staff; she worries about the other patients in the room when they ring the bell and it takes a long time to respond.
Audrey now wants to go home, however unable to care for herself she will be depending on her daughters to help her. Her daughters are more than willing to help, but there is a danger about going home to early.
I am not criticising the staff because they take so long to answer the bell, the criticism is directed towards the government because they are not addressing the issue of workforce shortages that is not enough nursing staff.
Nursing and Midwifery shortages are growing every day, we are hugely understaffed and over worked, and nursing standards are reflecting this because nurses do not have the time to provide quality care as they have too much to do.
Audrey is very aware that the health system is failing her and the nurses of this state, it needs a massive injection of funds and staff.
Patients like Audrey understand that there are staff shortages, but there is no excuse for rudeness and bad nursing.
Take the time to talk to your patients ask why are they upset, don’t just leave them crying or say “you have a broken arm it is meant to be painful” empathy and compassion go a long way. It is all in how you talk to patients, kindly, respectfully and with empathy.
Nursing and Midwifery needs passion, you need to enjoy your work otherwise it reflects in the care that your give your patients / clients.
Smile and the world smiles with you, if you do not like your job then do not do it, find what your passion is and do it, then everyone is happy.


Sarah Stewart said...

What a terrible story - do pass on my best wishes for a speedy recovery to Audrey. I have heard similar stories.

I think is a viscous circle- you start off a very motivated nurse/midwife but the system grinds you down. You say that people should get out when they feel like that and I agree, but as we all know, it's not as easy as that - jobs aren't so easy to come by especially with the level of pay nurses/midwives are used to. As you say, it's a system failure and we need to work within the system to address these issues.

infomidwife said...

Yes I agree the system can grind you down, but you can do something about it or attempt to do something. I always say if you feel your area is unsafe to work in then make a formal complaint, fill out a form and put your reasons down, if everyone did this management would soon get the picture that they need to act and help resolve the problem of staff shortages. Just imagine if every shift 5 forms went in all giving just cause for the complaint then there would be action.
I spoke to Audrey today to hear she had a very bad day, she awoke this morning feeling alone, painful and missing her family, she was teary. The nurse entered the room and demanded she get up for a shower, she said I really don't feel up to it now. The nurses response was "it is my job to shower you now I am very busy so lets get it done". Really, I thought this sort of nursing went out with the ark! this is task orientated. Where is the caring? the assessing of Audrey's emotional needs? where is the comfort? the nurse is to busy? now this does not wash. Where is Audrey's autonomy? who is advocating for her? I am very disapointed with the system and the lack of nursing care for Audrey.

Sarah Stewart said...

It just makes me want to weep when I read your comments. I think if I had a family member in hospital I wouldn't want to leave their side. But that's not hospitals are about. We shouldn't need to have to protect our family members from nursing staff. When did things get so bad? As health professionals we do have to take responsibility. And I agree, we need to support each other as we take actions as you suggest. Time and time again I have heard midwifery staff say they need to take action but they never do. How can we support each other to take these sorts of actions? Why do we as health professionals act in such reprehensible ways? I bet we're not like it at home with our families, so why do we take on this behavior when we get to work. It's the same with horizontal bullying. Why do we do it?

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