What if You Could Go to the Hospital … at Home?
I recently asked a female patient to give me a little feedback on her hospital experience. She’s not an ill person, but she lives in an area that has a huge homeless population. I asked her to tell me of her experiences at the hospital, and to also share an anecdote of a time when she or her family was in need of medical care, whether for an acute illness or an injury. Her answers were pretty much what you might expect. This is a woman who was in the hospital six times in the last year, and who would have been there a dozen more times had she been able to walk.
What she said was that the hospital environment was stressful for her, due to the lack of privacy and personal staff attention. She felt she was “held hostage by the hospital.” There was no privacy, and she didn’t feel that her needs were considered. The staff seemed to focus overwhelmingly on the needs of the patients, and not on the needs of the person making the request or the person receiving the results.
The last time she was in the hospital, however, her father, a former patient, was there for the same treatment. She described him as “a hero to the nurses.” He was a quadriplegic and was in the intensive care unit for the last week of his life. He was in a coma and was unable to breathe. He had to have a tube in his stomach so that he could swallow water to try to keep himself hydrated. His doctors told the staff that there was nothing they could do to help him—that they were at their limit, and that he would die within hours. But not only did they not give up on him, they helped him to fight his last seconds. Over the course of just a few short hours, he managed to breathe his last, and then they helped him to die peacefully.
I told her to think about the words she used: “I felt like I was a hostage by the hospital.” I told her that the hospital staff is human beings just like the rest of us. They have their own lives to lead just like we do. The only difference is that they have to work