The Truth About Hospitals EVERY Patient Should Know

Having worked in several different hospitals over the past few years, I have learned a great deal. I have worked with a lot of great people, and for the most part, the people who work in hospitals are caring, compassionate people, who are there to provide you with the best possible care. Having said that, I feel that there are some issues which need to be addressed. There are some things that every patient should really know before going into a hospital. Some of these are pretty basic. Some of them, many of us have experienced in the past. Others are issues that the average person may not be aware of, or may not even think about. Having this knowledge can only benefit you as a patient. It is important to be aware of what is going on around you, things you may want to ask your doctor before being admitted, or at least some things you may want to know before finding yourself stuck in a little hospital room, sometimes with a roommate, sometimes with little means to get up and move around.

I have gathered this information over my years working in hospitals, talking with various members of hospital staff over the years, and with talking with some of the great patients I have had the good fortune to encounter. as well. I hope this information doesn't scare you into not going to a hospital if you need to. After all, if a hospital stay is necessary, it is still a better alternative to not going. The care you will receive may be essential to your health and well-being.

This room looks nice and clean, doesn't it?
This room looks nice and clean, doesn't it?

Some Simple Truth

Your hospital room is NOT as clean as it should be: Does this mean that the housekeepers are not doing their jobs? Maybe, in some cases, but generally speaking, no. The real issue here is time management and room/patient ratios. It is a lot of work to keep a hospital clean. There are not only patient rooms, operating rooms and nurses' stations to clean. There are also lobbies, usually several, offices, restrooms, hallways, break rooms, storage rooms, supply rooms, testing rooms (EKG, CT, etc) and various other areas that need to be cleaned. Different shifts cover different jobs. Usually, daily cleaning of occupied rooms will be done during the day. Cleaning recently emptied rooms is an all day and all night job. Patients are constantly coming and going. Sometimes, it's hard to keep up with all the work that needs to be done. Often, hospitals are short-handed, and steps get missed in order to get everything done on time. I have gone into supposedly clean rooms and found dust, garbage, and various other issues. Sometimes it is the fault of the housekeeper, sometimes it's a careless nurse who was either, restocking the room, and tossed the garbage into the garbage can, or worse yet, a staff member who saw the empty room as an opportunity to take their lunch in a nice, quiet room. There are various reasons why your room may not be as clean as it should be. With the recent rise in hospital-related illnesses, it is always best to be informed of such issues.

Steps do get missed in an attempt to get the rooms clean as quickly as possible. As I said, I worked for several different hospitals, and the hospitals could not have been more different. One hospital I worked at gave me the time I needed to do a good job, and make sure the room was clean. The attitude was fairly relaxed, as long as you did a good job. The attitude was a good one; clean the room as if it were your own family member that would be going into that room. I took pride in a well cleaned room. Sometimes I could get them done quickly, others took longer. I once had to clean a room where it was a contact precaution, meaning the person had some infection or illness that could be transmitted through contact with the patient or surfaces in the room. It requires extra cleaning. On top of that, the patient had been there for around three or four months. Imagine if you only did a light cleaning on your house every day or so for a few months, when you did a detail cleaning, it would be a lot more work. Same concept. That room took roughly two hours. Did I get in trouble? Nope. I explained the situation, and was even given help to get it done. Now the other hospital I worked at couldn't have been more different. You got thirty minutes to clean a room, no matter what. No excuses. As I said, contact precaution rooms require more time, and more thorough cleaning. This did not matter. On top of this, they went behind you and marked you down for everything you missed, further cutting into the time you could be using to properly clean the room. I figured out why they pushed us so hard; our managers were awarded with bonuses for quicker turn around times on patient rooms. The faster we cleaned (no matter the consequence to the patients) the more money they made. We did not see a dime of this, and in truth, it upset me that they were putting money above the safety and well being of the patients.

Your doctor really doesn't have time for you: This is not to say that the doctor has no time for you, or that he doesn't care about you. Doctors are just incredibly busy. They usually make rounds early in the morning, then have office hours until four or five in the evening, make another set of rounds in the evening, and if they are lucky, they can get home by around ten at night. I have known doctors that have worked consistent 15 hour days. Having so many patients to see, sometimes at several hospitals in the area, leaves little time for personal attention for each patient. I understand, that as a patient, you are sitting there, for hours, even days with little to do. I understand that patients often have a lot of questions for their doctors, but truth be told, if your doctor is able to see you on a particular day, he may not have a lot of time to talk with you. This frustrates a lot of patients. They feel their doctor doesn't care about them, doesn't listen to them, or that they don't understand. They do care, they do listen (usually), and they do understand. Patients often get mad at their doctors over this, and this anger carries over to the rest of the hospital staff. Blaming nurses or nurses' aids for not being able to see your doctor happens quite often. It isn't the fault of the nursing staff. It is a result of a system that is stretched to its limit. The reasons for this are many. I could go into all of them, but it would take a while. So, if you find yourself in the hospital, and you are getting frustrated that you haven't seen or heard from your doctor, don't get angry. Just ask your nurse, or aid if they know when your doctor makes rounds, and make sure you are available when they do. I can't tell you the number of times a patient got mad because a doctor made rounds and "never came to see them", only to find out the patient had been sleeping, or out walking the halls, when the doctor came through. The doctor isn't going to wake you up unless it's very important, and the doctor is not going to wander the halls looking for you.

Sleep deprived doctors

Sometimes, a doctor's life is so busy, it all looks like a blur
Sometimes, a doctor's life is so busy, it all looks like a blur

Complaining is a Bad Idea: This may sound terrible, and uncaring considering you are a patient in a hospital, and you are more than likely experiencing a certain amount of discomfort. Truth is, though. nurses and CNA's are busy, for the most part. The nursing staff has a certain number of patients to deal with. It becomes difficult for them if they have one, or more, patients that are frequently pushing their call button, asking for this and that, or just complaining about things. You may think it's perfectly reasonable to push the call button and ask for the temperature to be adjusted, then push it again a little later, asking for some water, and so on. The nursing staff sees it as a nuisance. Nurses have a lot of work to do other than just watching after their patients. They have charting to do, doctors to call and talk with, medications to go over and hand out, tests to check, and a bunch of other things to do. That is part of the reason that nurses have aides to help them. A lot of the additional responsibilities that are more directly related to the care of the patients falls to the aides, and sometimes medical assistants, which are similar to CNA's.

Your Call Button Will Not Be Answered Nearly As Quickly As You Would Think: It doesn't mean no one cares that you need something. It has to do with the volume of patients the nursing staff has to deal with and the multitude of responsibilities that the nursing staff has to deal with. You may need someone to come right away, but it may not be answered as quickly as you need it. I had seen patients hit their call button, tell the person they need help to the restroom, and wait for quite a while. They wait and wait, and then the person comes over the speaker in the room, only to ask if they have been helped yet, and no, the patient hasn't been helped. They are still sitting in their bed, desperate to get to the bathroom before they have an accident. And, often times, the nurse or aide does not get there in time. This leaves the patient feeling upset and ashamed, and means even more work for the nursing staff. Did they intentionally let the person sit there? No, they were just busy with other things at the moment. At times, more critical patients, with more serious issues, have a lot of problems and take a lot of a nurse's time. Often, the same thing goes for medications. I have seen patients in pain, pushing the call button for pain meds and end up waiting in agony. Is it intentional? Not likely, but it may be that the nurse doesn't have the meds ready yet, or it isn't actually time for another dose, or again, the nurse is busy with another patient. Just be prepared. Either have a family member spend time at the hospital to help you out, or remember to push the call button for help before you get to the point where you desperately need it. Sometimes there are boards on the wall that will tell you when you last had your dose of pain medication, and when you are due for it again. Keep track of when you were given your medication, and when you are due for it again. If you are due to have your pain meds at noon, push the call button about twenty minutes before, and let them know it's close to your medication time.

They tell you to call, but they would rather you didn't
They tell you to call, but they would rather you didn't

A Better Hospital Experience

If you want to have a better hospital experience, you need to go into it prepared. Knowing what to expect will make all of it easier to deal with. If you can, check your room to make sure it's clean. Obviously, you won't be able to see tiny germs on surfaces, but think proactively. Bring some sanitizing wipes with you, and wipe off the surfaces you are going to be touching frequently. I know it isn't your job to clean the room, but I would rather clean a little myself, than develop a nasty infection from touching something that wasn't cleaned properly.

Make sure if you, or a family member, will be in the hospital, have someone there to act as their advocate. Also, find the number for the patient advocate at the hospital, just in case. Most hospitals have one, even though they don't advertise it. Make sure you are getting the best care you can.

Be a patient patient. I can't stress this enough. I know you are not happy being there, no one likes to be in a hospital, but being a patient patient will make your stay there more pleasant and much easier to deal with.

© 2011 Anna Marie Bowman

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Comments 8 comments

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Anna Marie Bowman 3 years ago from Florida Author

pearyb-- I really wish more people did.


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Anna Marie Bowman 4 years ago from Florida Author

rosika-- Every hospital I have worked for has set rules as to the number of patients a nurse can manage at any one time. It is dependent on the seriousness of the patient's condition, the attention they will require, and things like that. If they have more patients than adequate nurses to care for them, they call in another nurse, or pull one from a floor that is less busy. I know that many nurses still feel that they have more patients than they can handle, but a large amount of the work is now done by Certified nursing assistants (CNA's), and they get stuck with more patients per CNA than the nurses do.


rosika profile image

rosika 4 years ago

Very informative hub...every nurses and doctors are allocated to the number of patients for them to look after so that they can read patient's medical history and know about them before they go and see them. Nurses and doctors try their best to find every piece of history about their patients so that they can find out the right diagnoses and come with right intervention. However, it doesn't always happens because of new patients coming on and on through emergency. This new patients have to be looked after by the doctors and nurses who are already allocated to look after the particular number of patients. Hence, there is always a rush. And it also explains why when patients in agony go through the emergency, they don't get looked after straight away because hospitals are already packed with patients and each of them needs equal attentions, while some have more serious conditions than others such as sudden accident. Voted up for this informative hub!


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Anna Marie Bowman 5 years ago from Florida Author

moonlake-- I know that that sort of thing does happen from time to time. It sounds as if you had a really bad experience, and I am sorry for that. It does happen. I have encountered it myself. There would be times when the nurses were all chatting with each other at the nurses' station, and there were things that were supposed to be getting done, patients in need of help, and I had to intervene on behalf of the patient.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

The nurses are not always busy when you turn on the call button. I once did that and I could see the nurses station outside my room because the there was glass window over the fire alarm and the it reflected on the nurses station. Take my word for it they were not busy. My doctor had them put me by the nurses station for a reason and he had told them that. They would not answer my button so I had to crawl out of bed over the foot because both sides were up with all my tubes and try to make it to the bathroom after just having a heart attack and then try to get back in that bed. I wasn't one to ring for the nurse often in fact very rarely.

Good hub.

With very correct information. If your loved one ends up in the hospital stay with them.


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Anna Marie Bowman 5 years ago from Florida Author

azii-- Glad you found it helpful!!

Storytellersrus-- I have heard, and seen countless stories just like that. Nurses don't get there in time to give meds, often because of an emergency or issue with another patient, and the person in pain waits and waits. It is terrible, but sometimes it happens.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

This explains a lot! Thank you so much.

My aunt spends a great deal of time in the hospital these days and her daughters always insist on spending the night, as they have experienced disconnected tubes and other worrisome events. This leaves them realizing only they care enough for their mom to make sure everything is exactly as it should be. Not to put down nurses, but in a rush, or overwhelmed, things happen.

I will never forget when I had a cesearean the first time around. I was given morphine to ease the pain, which was standard back then anyway. I was told that a nurse would be back at 1am to give me my next dose. I awoke at 2am in terrible pain and I spent the next few hours panicked, realizing I was now a morphine addict and that my newborn was going to have a drug mom. I was both relieved and chagrined when, at 6am, a nurse came in all apologetic, to tell me they had forgotten to administer the shot because an emergency C-section arrived around 1am. I had been certain I had gotten the shot, but that it had not "been enough" and that I now required more more more, lol. Crazy.


azii 5 years ago

dats pretty helpful,atlast an explanation 2 all dat...thanx

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