Sunday, December 7, 2008

The holidays

It turns out I will be working in the hospital over Christmas. The hospital can't stop over the holidays and not only will I be there, but many other doctors, nurses, staff, and of course, the patients. I have it better than most though - by pure luck, I managed to get off both Thanksgiving and New Year's. No doubt about it though, it definitely sucks to be in the hospital, whether as staff or as a patient, when you know your family and friends are out there having a good time. To be honest, I think it's worse for the patients - not only are they sick, but they're pretty much stuck at the hospital the entire time. For staff, even if they work a 36 hour shift or spend the entire actual holiday working, they eventually get to go home, perhaps see some friends or family if they're not too tired.

In general, I think most people are pretty good at making the most of it and that's probably the best anyone can do. The staff often have small holiday parties in the hospital, which they can attend in between duties with patients. The cafeteria and food services tries to make a nice meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and sometimes there are holiday activities for the patients, if they can attend or participate. Hopefully, families come to visit their loved ones in the hospital over the holidays, bringing a piece of home with them.

The sad cases are when you realize that a patient doesn't have any family to visit them, or even think about them. It happens quite often in the hospital, especially with the elderly. I haven't seen it myself (yet) but I've heard some families don't want to deal with an elderly relative, sometimes over the holidays, and they just drop them off at the emergency room with a real or fabricated problem, and they get admitted to the hospital for several days so the family doesn't have to deal with them. Sometimes the family doesn't have time, or the desire to visit the relative, even over the holidays. I had a patient once who lived with his daughter. The family was very nice, but the daughter was taking care of 3 of her own children, not to mention a few other younger siblings, and didn't have time to visit her father every day. The son would often come, but he was pretty much useless in terms of helping coordinating care for his father. Unfortunately, the father didn't know his own home phone number, or a way to contact his daughter, so even though we discharged him from the hospital, it was 3 days before we could get word to the daughter to pick him up! Incredible.

And finally, the saddest cases are when you realize a patient doesn't have any family at all. They may have a friend as an emergency contact, or worse, they have no emergency contact at all. Last month I had an elderly female patient who was very very sick - the only family she had at all was a sister who lived 2 hours away and was sick herself and couldn't make it to the hospital to visit, much less help with her care. We could speak to her over the phone, and let her know updates about her sister, but that's about it. Not surprisingly, the patient was pretty depressed and often didn't want to take care of herself or agree to different studies or take necessary medications. It's horrible - what can you really do in these cases?

It just makes me feel even more fortunate, especially during the holidays, that I have a very loving husband and extended family, who will support me no matter what happens.


Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


JoJoJangJang said...

Thanks! I really appreciate that. :)