All the procedures performed on you while you are in the hospital are for the sole purpose of getting you well as soon as possible. Be quick to realize this and co-operate with every hospital worker who has anything to do with your care. You will find that your hospital stay is much more pleasant if you are courteous and considerate of the other patients and the hospital staff. Remembering these two things alone will add greatly to the success and the pleasantness of your hospital stay—be co-operative, be courteous.
Certain procedures you may have to undergo while in the hospital may actually seem cruel or needless, but no one is trying to punish you or put you through unnecessary discomfort. The use of such a device as the stomach tube may shorten your hospital stay by many days and may save your life, and, to be sure, many such procedures are not nearly so uncomfortable as they appear at first. The hypodermic needle is thought by some patients to be used too freely. With many drugs, however, this is the most effective route of administration. Never fear that your doctor ordered a medication by injection when it was not necessary, or that it was kept up unnecessarily long. Treatment cards for every patient in the hospital are reviewed every eight hours to make certain they are current with your doctor’s order sheet. Remember that your doctor orders every medication and every procedure performed while you are in the hospital. He is well aware of the discomforts as well as the benefits from each. Joking about these procedures is to be expected and provides harmless diversion, but do not become belligerent about anything. Be co-operative and help the hospital employees help you.
Complaints are often made about the service in a hospital, and these are welcomed because they point out where improvements are required. But remember, the hospital is not just a hotel, and its primary mission is the treatment of the sick. Most of the employees have to be specially trained, and there are problems too numerous to mention here which are not apparent to the patient. The serving of meals in the patients’ rooms from a central kitchen may appear to be a simple matter but actually is a perpetual problem. The administration of a hospital is not an easy matter. Make certain that your complaints are not petty and be certain to present them in a constructive manner. It is best to tell them to your doctor, the hospital director, or the supervisor of nurses.
If you are not in a private room in the hospital, you must respect the rights of your roommates. If one is seriously ill, limit your visitors to one at a time and speak softly. Always consult your roommate before you raise a window, or even before you smoke. Sharing your reading material will initiate a friendship. Do not ask questions about other persons’ illnesses; they will tell you what they want you to know. When your roommate’s doctor calls, leave the room if you are allowed up out of bed; otherwise, go on with your reading and be as unconcerned as possible. When you use the bathroom, be as neat as you would in your own home. If you show respect, there is little doubt that you will receive respect in return.
When your doctor calls on you, politely ask all visitors to leave the room, put away your book, dispose of your cigarette, and give him your undivided attention. Answer all questions accurately and specifically and freely submit to the examinations your doctor wants to make. Then, if you have any questions to ask your doctor, he will gladly answer them. Try, however, not to burden him with too many insignificant questions, and accept his explanations rather than other theories you may have heard.
Patients sometimes become too concerned over the results of their laboratory tests. The full interpretation of these tests must be left to the doctor. Rarely does a patient know the normal value for a laboratory report and so can hardly expect to realize the significance of a report which is a deviation from normal. Do not bother your doctor with exact figures, for they are meaningless, and often harmful conclusions result when a patient tries to interpret his own laboratory data. You may have heard that a normal red blood cell count is 5 million and yours may be 4% million. You might conclude that you have anemia, yet the figure of 4\’± million may even be high for you. Many such tests vary with a number of conditions. Let your doctor interpret the results of all tests, and he can tell you whether a certain test made on you is significantly below or above normal.
The same thing applies to your blood pressure determinations. Your doctor will tell you if you have high or low blood pressure, and you cannot decide for yourself even if you know your blood pressure readings. The old formula that your blood pressure should be 100 plus your age is not entirely correct. There is a slight variation with age, but your pressure is influenced by other factors as well, such as your activity, your state of health, and, indeed, your emotions. So do not bother with exact figires. Your doctor will interpret all tests and determinations made on you and give you the simple facts of what is high, low, and normal, and what must be done about abnormalities.
Occasionally patients place limitations on their doctor by not letting him take complete charge. A common example is the statement, “Doctor, I won’t take ether; it makes me sick.” It is easy to see how this restricts a doctor during an operation. He is well aware that ether makes many patients nauseated: yet it is still the safest general anesthetic of all under many conditions. When the doctor decides that ether is the anesthetic of choice but the patient has declared he will not take it, the doctor must resort to the anesthetic of second choice, and risk is added just to avoid nausea, which never really causes any complications and passes off quickly. Perhaps the surgeon did not plan on using ether primarily, but in many cases mixtures are used, and often there is a change of or an addition to the anesthetic agent during the course of an operation. The surgeon is limited if he has been made to promise that he will not employ ether.
This is just one of many ways you may handicap your surgeon by placing limitations on his treatment of you. Your doctor wants to keep you as comfortable as possible, but not at the cost of added risks, even though those risks may be slight. He cannot accept any limitations from any patient. He must be free to use all the means and devices medical science has proved most effective and safe. By suggesting a limitation, a barrier is automatically placed between doctor and patient. Of course, if some physician has told you that you are allergic to some drug, you must call this fact to your surgeon’s attention and he will not use it. But let your surgeon take complete charge, and do not try to place limitations on his treatment. He will not put you through unnecessary discomfort.
The nurses are in the hospital to treat you according to your doctor’s orders, and they want to keep you as comfortable as possible, but they are busy people, with many others to serve as well. In each hospital there is some sort of call system for summoning a nurse when she is needed at the bedside. She wants to be called to help you each time it is necessary, but make certain it is a necessity each time you summon. Repeated calls for trivialities soon wear out her eagerness to serve you, especially if you could help yourself. Do not make each routine call an emergency; this ruins a good thing so that every call you make is thought to be minor, even in a real emergency. When you signal for the nurse, be patient for her to answer. She has many patients to care for, and when you call she may be helping a doctor or a critically ill patient in another room. The nurse has a difficult and responsible job; try to be considerate of her. It has been said that nurses are people, too!
While you are in the hospital, you must also remember your manners of attire. This is especially important during visiting hours. While in bed keep the sheet over you. If not wearing a hospital gown, men should wear their pajama tops as well as bottoms, and women should wear their bed jackets over their negligee. When in the halls always wear your bathrobe. Frequently male patients roam around in nothing but pajama pants and are offended when a nurse asks them to put on their robes. Good manners in dress will make the hospital more pleasant for all.
In short, your stay in the hospital must include good manners, but you may go even farther than this if you are one who likes to help others. In the latter part of your convalescence you will probably be feeling quite well, but there may be other patients who are not. You can contribute to their comfort by waiting on them in many different ways—bringing drinking water, helping with eating, adjusting their bed backrests, writing a letter, reading to them, even shaving a man too weak to do it for himself, and many other services. If there is no apparent need for help in the ward and you are up and about with free time on your hands, ask the nurse whether there is any patient whom you could help or cheer up. You may also offer your services to her. A nurse has many little responsibilities to look after, and it may be you could help. She may ask you to sort medication cards, graph temperature readings, take memorandums to other parts of the hospital, sort linens, or do any other little job within your physical capabilities. Nothing seems to help one more than helping others. Throughout your hospital stay try to apply the Golden Rule.
If your stay has been pleasant, after you leave the hospital send a greeting card or a note to the section of the hospital where you were a patient, thanking them for their hospitality. Everyone likes to be thanked for service rendered, and your card of thanks on the hospital bulletin board lets everyone know that their efforts are appreciated.