To begin with, I will say that it is not only a patients right to participate in their treatment, but it is their responsibility. You may be laying in a hospital bed with very little control of your outcome, but you must pay attention the best you can, because your life may depend on it.
My Mother and my Son were in a roll-over automobile accident on July 5th, 2008. My Son’s injuries were less severe, but Mom is still in the hospital as this is being written.
My Mom had to be life-flighted by helicopter from the desert in Central Oregon where she was administered 3 units of blood. Among her injuries were two broken ribs, a fractured lumbar vertebrae, deep tissue bruising in the right leg and worst of all she had a deglovement of her right arm from just below the elbow all the way down into her hand. The bones in her wrist had multiple compound fractures from being crushed several times between the roof of the car and the road. As of now, she has been through nine surgeries on her wounds.
The first report we received on the way to the hospital was that she had lost her arm. To the EMT’s and staff who admitted her, it must have looked that way. But miraculously, the surgeon who saw her in the emergency room found that she still had nerves and tendons that were not badly affected.
Initially, when I arrived at the hospital in Bend, Oregon. I was stonewalled when I asked for information, and was sent to a waiting room. They wouldn’t even tell me if my Mom and my Son were alive still or what was being done. The staff gave me some crap about hospital protocol and told me that they couldn’t even share the information with me if they knew it. I reminded them that my Son was a minor child and that I hadn’t even yet given them consent to treat him, and made it known that I wasn’t settling for not getting any answers about what was being done or what the conditions of my loved ones were.
Because of Mom’s limited ability to participate in her own medical care, we began round the clock visitation as soon as she was admitted to a room. Since day one, we have kept a medical journal for and with my Mom. Every dosage of medication has been charted in duplicate by us as well as the charting the hospital does.
We listen to and participate in conversations with the doctors, surgeons and therapists. As it happens, today an issue came up regarding medical error.
As well as skin grafts, my Mom has received a special kind of artificial skin called Integra. Integra is used most frequently in burn patients, but my Mom’s surgeon consulted with other surgeons out of state and decided on this treatment. The Integra helps to promote tissue growth and get wound closure with minimal infection. It is a relatively new technology, so many physicians haven’t even heard of it, much less worked with it.
As my Mom has been getting her wound dressed daily, my girlfriend (who is also a CNA) has been looking on and taking notes. She made note of the fact that Dr. Angeles (moms surgeon) used a dressing called Acticoat. The Acticoat is used to keep the surface of the Integra moist. He explained as he changed that dressing that this moisture is very important.
Today, Dr. Angeles was out of town, and another surgeon tried to substitute a different dressing because he couldn’t find Acticoat. My girlfriend Colleen put her foot down, and refused to allow this other surgeon to change the dressing unless he found some Acticoat or got the okay directly from Dr. Angeles.
This is the most effective way to reduce medical errors. Pay attention and take a pro-active approach to your treatment. Ask questions, get answers and participate in your own treatment. Pre-emtively avoid the potential errors that you can by paying careful attention to what is said and done.
I have heard it said that too many cooks will spoil the soup. In this case, there are a lot of different people you will come into contact with during a hospital stay. They may not all be on the same page.
I am all for reporting of medical errors. With this data, you can identify what errors are being commonly made and brainstorm for ways to reduce the risk. People who are prone to many errors can be retrained or removed.