Sometimes I don’t think hospitals actually don’t want us to work in them. At present I am paying £12.20 every day to park in the hospital car park. Twelve bloody quid. That’s more than the cinema. And I LIKE going to the cinema.
I attempt to rectify this situation by going to the parking permit portakabin for an animated discussion (to be frank you’d expect them to be residing in a gold-plated castle, but perhaps they don’t want to rub our noses in it). They eventually tell me, reluctantly, that I can get a daily staff parking pass for a car park about a mile from the hospital for JUST TWO QUID. I agree, pay my £2, and promptly get lost on a ring road.
Ten minutes later I pitch up at said car park to join a long line of doctors, nurses, physios, ward clerks and receptionists, all silently drumming their fingers on the wheels, and hoping that their bosses are further back in the queue. I inch my way slowly towards the barrier. Finally it’s my turn. I wait. And wait. And wait. The barrier that had sailed skywards so effortlessly for every other bastard, sits stubbornly in its cradle like a fat kid in a cake shop. By this time the line of angry hospital workers behind me has lengthened considerably. A lone honk sounds. And then another. Shit. Day one, and I’ve already pissed off half the hospital.
In an effort to stop myself being lynched before I even begin my job, I attempt to reverse into a slipway. Unfortunately the barrier is in my way. More unfortunately, I decide not to care. BANG. My front wing high-fives the barrier. The honks silence. My fellow health workers reluctantly find their reverse gear. I 15 point-turn my way out of the queue and drive back to the portacabin, trying desperately to look nonchalant about the new dent in my car.
“Oh, sorry, Miss. I forgot to tell you that you need to press the information button. The barrier will automatically rise,’ the man who’s company is sending me spiralling into debt, grins at me.
‘Great. Thanks,’ I spit between gritted teeth.
Once parked, I scrabble in the back of the car for the sandwich that I’d woken up at 6am to create. My phone bleeps.
‘Just found your sandwich,’ my flatmate texts. ‘I’ll put it in the fridge.’
So I’ve pranged my car and I’ve got no lunch. It really is an excellent start.
At that moment my bleep goes off. It’s my first bleep at my new hospital. Could this bleep herald a brave new hospital dawn, where I know all the answers to patients’ questions and am not publicly lambasted by infection control on a regular basis.
I run to a phone in the main lobby.
“Where the hell are you?” says the exhausted voice of the night SHO.
“Er. On my way in. I’m down on the timetable to start at 9.”
“We start at 8. It’s 8.30. You’ve missed the ward round. Come to the ward. I’ve got a patient to hand over urgently.’
The line goes dead.
The question ‘Which ward?’ hangs unanswered on my lips.
I decide to make an educated guess and head to one of the dilapidated wards in a soon-to-be-condemed tower block. Then I realise I don’t know the night SHO’s name. Or what she looks like. Everytime I see a female doctor, I look at them with a questioning grin. They return this expression with a furrowing of their brows and a shaking of their heads. I’m not wearing a stethescope. They clearly think I’m a mental patient.
Eventually I locate the night SHO by a process of elimination. She hands over a complex emergency case. She leaves. I go into blind panic.
I go into a blind panic because my main jobs as a ward SHO are:
1) To find the patient list and keep it up to date.
2) To take bloods and order x-rays and ultrasounds on patients.
3) To record the results of these investigations and act upon them.
4) To see new, and existing patients, and to contact my registrar if I have any questions on how to proceed with their care.
The main problems are:
1) I don’t have a password to the computer so I can’t log on to locate the list. And even if I could I wouldn’t be able to find it anyway.
2) I don’t know how to order bloods, and I don’t have a log on to get onto the programme that lets me order x-rays. If I want to get a log on then I need to complete an hour’s worth of online training and assessments before I am deemed capable of using the programme.
3) Having not ordered the investigations, I can’t really follow them up, as they haven’t been done
4) I can’t remember anything about gynaecology.
So I spend the next three hours driving anyone who comes near me completely crazy, by asking them endless questions about how to make the computer work, or how I find blood results, or where the blood taking equipment is, or how I get hold of tissue viability nurses.
By lunchtime I have variously pissed off one ward sister, two senior staff nurses, the gastro sho (who made the unfortunate choice to sit next to me in the doctors office), three members of the IT department, a haematology consultant, two gynae consultants, an ultrasonographer and a health care assistant. Not a bad tally for one day.
Just as I think I might have a chance to go and buy a replacement sandwich, a nurse arrives with the news that one of the long-stay patient’s sons wants to talk with me, and he’s getting on a plane in an hour.
There’s nothing like having a chat with the relative of a patient that you don’t know the first thing about to really feel good about yourself and the job that you do.
So I grab the hefty pile of notes that detail this poor woman’s stay and attempt to speed read a portion of it. Within minutes I’ve surrendered due to the illegibility of 90% of the entries.
I take a deep breath and head to the expectant son.
Time for the best doctor get out clause ever.
“So. Why don’t you tell me what you understand has happened to your mum, and then I’ll try to fill in any gaps. And if I can’t fill them in I’ll find out the answers as soon as I can?”
And there follows a lucid and precise account of this mother’s stay in hospital. At least I now understand what’s going on with one patient. I am, as predicted, unable to answer his questions, but I take his number and promise to call him when I know the answers.
My answers to anyone’s questions over the course of the afternoon are a variation on the theme of:
“I’m sorry. I don’t know how to do that,”
which makes me feel like the effortlessly capable health professional that I, and all of my colleagues, wish me to be.
On the long hike to the car park at the end of the day I bump into one of my friends from medical school. I recognize the 5-mile stare of a fellow soldier in the war against bureaucracy, badly designed IT systems and ill health. We repair to the pub. We stare blankly at our pints and shake our heads in mutual dismay at our life choices.
On the way home I get lost on the ring road. This time I recognize the turn off to the hospital. Things are definitely looking up.