Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The All-Important Written Word

Short Story: Communication between patients and doctors is not always perfect. Likewise, communication between medical professionals is not always perfect (or even close).

There is hope and it comes in the form of the written word.

Experience 1:

Because of new research linking chronic rejection and acid reflux, I elected to do a stomach surgery that would prevent acid from getting in my esophagus. That surgery is called a Nissen Fundoplication and I also had a Pyloroplasty with it to aid in my stomach motility. That’s a lot of surgery on one stomach! Thank God my surgeon had been around the block a few times and understood the power of notes.

When a person has a Nissen, it usually prevents them from being able to vomit ever again. Nausea is a common problem for me, especially when pain meds are involved.

I don’t really understand why this is, but it is my experience that nausea is often taken very lightly by doctors and nurses. I tell them I am nauseous and they respond with an “Oh, that’s too bad”. Meanwhile, there are many drugs that can be used to treat nausea.

I suppose my surgeon had found that same thing to be true because he printed out a big note and posted it above my bed that read; “Treat Nausea Aggressively”. Guess what? Those people caring for me responded to that note as if God himself were speaking to them. I still had a lot of problems with anesthesia related nausea but I shudder to think how bad it could have been if he hadn’t taken the time to make that note. Thanks, Dr. F!

Experience 2:

For those needing inpatient care sleep is a rarity. Between the night nurses hollering to each other down the hall at 3am, the 24-hour-a-day blood draws and the revolving door of random visitors (professional and non-professional) finding time for rest isn’t easy.

That’s where the note comes in. Posting a note on the door stating that you are sleeping and to not disturb until a set time worked wonders for me. There’s just something about signs that people really respect and will adhere to the message.

Experience 3:

A chart is something that accompanies you wherever you go in the hospital or doctor’s office. A chart is also something that is written in but rarely ever read.

For those of us that hate to repeat ourselves, writing notes is a great alternative to saying the same information to every new face that walks in the room. Things like your medication regimen, questions you have and your list of symptoms are great to have written down, both as an inpatient and an outpatient.

The Verdict:

Mistakes can happen. Writing notes is one major step in helping to promote good communication for your team. It’s not rude or arrogant; it’s good common sense. Having a written note means you can relax more and feel like you don’t need to defend yourself even in your sleep. It can also prevent frustration for the patient as repeating yourself can be annoying.

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