Staying Safe in the Hospital Over the Holiday Weekend

Staying Safe in the Hospital Over the Holiday Weekend

Wherever you may find yourself over the upcoming holidays, the one place you do not want to be is in the hospital.  Most people don’t realize that hospitals can be dangerous places.  Staying safe in the hospital over the holiday may seem like an unnecessary warning.  However, danger lurks in the form of antibiotic resistant bacteria to medical and surgical errors.  This is true on any given day in the hospital, and it applies even more so on a holiday.   As one who has worked an untold number holidays in a community hospital emergency room, I can attest to a few facts that are critical for patients to consider if they find themselves  in need of medical attention.

First of all, health care professionals have families too, and as such, they want to spend important holidays with their loved ones—just like the rest of us.  In order to give as many employees off as possible over the holiday weekend, hospitals traditionally discharge every patient possible to reduce the patient census down to the lowest possible number by Friday evening.  Combine that with the reluctance of patients to schedule any elective procedures that may jeopardize their comfort during the upcoming celebrations, and hospitals have a patient census that is at one of its lowest points of the year.

So why is it a risk to a patient’s well being to be admitted to the hospital over a holiday weekend?  The third leading cause of death in the United States is medical error, and that is over the course of patient admissions and discharges on any given day throughout the year.  Holidays include their own risk factors such as a lower than normal volume of physicians and low staffing across every department in the hospital.  Resident physicians (physicians who have not yet completed the clinical part of their training) are staffing both community hospitals and large academic teaching centers, but the attending physicians are, like everyone else, on holiday.  Unless attending physicians have contracted with the hospital to provide their services, patients will have to wait for on-call physicians to arrive.  It all comes down to the services you will need in order to recover.  Will it be a routine procedure that can easily be handled by a surgical resident? Or, will you need a procedure that requires the experience and expertise of an attending physician in order to achieve a successful outcome?

The same holds true for the medical service.  Are your symptoms of the classic variety that are easy to identify and diagnose?  Or, would they perplex even the most seasoned clinicians?  If you fall into the latter categories in either the surgical or medical service, it may possibly spell trouble for you on a holiday weekend.

As a patient in the emergency room, instead of a jovial guest at a holiday dinner, there are a few things you need to  remember.  One may assume that very few people find their way to the emergency room on a major holiday. Everyone wants to be with family and friends instead of waiting to be evaluated at their local hospital.  However,  you may find, if you do need to come to the hospital, that the the opposite is true.  The emergency room is overflowing with patients waiting to be seen.  If that is the case, you will need to be vigilant. There are very likely too few nurses and physicians to cover a large, unanticipated number of sick or injured patients.  The wait times will be long, and the sickest patients will be seen first.  If you have troublesome symptoms and the doctor treating you has not yet reached a diagnosis, you will need to be assertive in reporting any new symptoms to your nurse, and do not hesitate to ask if it is okay for worrisome symptoms to continue without evaluation by a physician. Emergency room physicians must attend to the most seriously ill patients first, and the emergency room is not a first-come, first-served facility.  You may be waiting a very long time.

Health care professionals are doing the best that they can with the staff that they have on hand, and no one wants to fail their patients.  As the patient, do not be lulled into the expectation that the doctors and nurses always have everything under control.  They are stressed to the maximum on a holiday weekend, and they are busy and short-staffed.  Diligence is a virtue, but that is not all that is required especially on a major holiday.  Patients need to take an active role, and alert health care professionals about any unusual symptoms that they may be experiencing that were not noted on the initial consult.  Doctors and nurses are not mind readers, and if you  notice  something that they haven’t mentioned, do not assume that they have automatically assimilated this information into your medical record.   Be vigilant in reporting new symptoms.  It’s the best way to assure a successful outcome on days where hospitals are universally operating with a low staff to patient ratio.  If you have to be admitted to a hospital on one of the major summer holiday weekends, go in with both eyes wide open and remain on guard. With a little luck, you will be discharged back into the world of good health.  Just make sure you do your part to help make it happen.  During this holiday season, take time to enjoy celebrating with family and friends, and may it be safe and far away from any hospital emergency room.


Originally posted 2017-05-19 19:33:04. Republished by Blog Post Promoter