Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Musings on the Medical System

A particularly venomous migraine that defied all oral medications landed My Beloved in the hospital where attempts are being made to tame the beast with IV drugs. My Beloved, despite her robust appearance is a fragile flower so she has had many hospital and medical adventures. Actually, I should say “we” since where she goes, I go. I function as a combination patient advocate, practical nurse and security blanket. By now, I’ve gotten so good at the nursing aspect that I’ve been asked by hospital staff members if that’s what I do for living. “No” I tell them, I have just had lots of experience – and I have a strong stomach!

I noticed that most of the nurses in the Houston hospitals are either African American or imported from a certain third world country. The Anglo nurses tend, at least in Houston to end up in Doctor’s offices or day surgery units. I suspect hospital ward duty is harder and the hours must be horrid so perhaps that explains the division.

The African American nurses we’ve meet are a delight. Chipper, cheerful, accommodating and friendly. No matter what I ask, they are happy to comply and they seem to be grateful that I’m taking over some of the nursing duties. They always have a smile, a quip and a joke.

Not so the nurses from the third world country which shall remain nameless. The ones we have encountered are competent in a detached sort of way but bedside manner is not their strong point. They are brusk to the point of rudeness and seem to consider patients a necessary evil. They are also firmly convinced that they know best and resent any suggestions or advice. My Beloved has bad veins and it’s hard to get a good stick. We both know this; we warn them but they go ahead and jab anyway. The African American nurses, on the other hand take one look, listen to what I have to say and call in “the expert” – the one person in the hospital who can always hit a bad vein on the first try.

This “I’m always right” attitude spills into their relations with the other staff members too. Last night we were privy to some rather loud altercations between staff members, one of which cumulated in the slamming of a door. Hospital room walls are thin.

I’m not sure where this post is going and realize that some it comes across as very prejudicial and judgmental. It’s not meant to be, but I wonder if some of the bad press the hospital system receives isn’t the result of culture clash between the expectations of American patients and the nurse training that is prevalent in the third world country that shall remain nameless.

Hospitals who recruit from there might do well to insist on a class in Beside Manner 101 once their nurses are stateside.


Library Lady said...

I know you're leaving out the country, but I DO hope they are not Filipina nurses. Not only is my sis-in-law a nurse, but whenever my father has been in the hospital in NY, most of his nurses have been Filipina, and they've all been nice as can be. And that's even BEFORE they find out he has a Filipino son-in-law!

GuusjeM said...

Nope, that's not the country!

Library Lady said...


alice, uptown said...

During my one prolonged hospital stay (for migraine), I tried to get out of the bed. The nurse's aide (if she had any qualifications) pushed me back into bed so hard I had a handprint on my thigh. She didn't speak, or didn't care to, enough English to explain why I was supposed to stay in bed. And yes, she was from the third world.

I told her, "just because I've signed myself into this hospital doesn't mean I've given up my Constitutional right to leave my bed." Needless to say, this made no impression, as she wouldn't have known a Constitutional right from the kick in the ass she actually deserved.

We have a nursing shortage, primarily because our society doesn't value nurses very highly (or pay them what they are worth). If I ever go to the hospital again, I'll be D.O.A.

I've had too many of those can't find a vein nurses. I can't help hope someone pokes them in the eye with a sharp stick, and my sympathies to your beloved.

The problem is, we end up with these nurses because of our multi-tiered medical system, which seems to translate into if you can't pay for premium health care (and not more than 1 percent of this country can afford what should be every person's right), what you get is something closer to subsistence level care...leaving me to wonder if third-world medical care at least has some pretense of caring, even if it lacks our technology.