Me – the patient


If you have been following my blog you will know that I am passionate about

  • Customer care
  •  communication and
  • Team work

It is vital in any job that you are doing when working with the general public.

When I am out I love to ‘people watch’. It might be in a restaurant, a shop, on a bus or train or in an  Airport – I love to watch how people react and how good people are at giving a good service.

So, it was no different when I had to go into hospital recently for a day procedure – a colonoscopy.

Let me take you through my day and the build up to it and see if you feel that I had “good customer / patient care”.

It started 3 weeks ago when I had to phone the consultants secretary to see if she had received my referral as I had not heard anything –  I phoned 2 times and left 2 messages before she phoned back and confirmed that she had in fact received the letter from my GP and went on to give me a date for my procedure.  I did not find her very helpful and found myself apologising for phoning and bothering her! Why did I feel I needed to do that?

She said that they would phone me the day before to let me know what time I have to book in for my procedure.

It got to 2.30 the Friday before my procedure and I had to phone to see what time they wanted me in – the secretary still did not know – but did phone me back at 4.30 and confirmed that I have to be in for 10.30 the following Monday. Still appeared to be cold and uncaring.

The day before my procedure I had to starve from 08.00 – that was pretty hard going I must say as everywhere I looked there was food being advertised. On the telly, in magazines and every social network that I looked on everyone was talking about the wonderful roast dinners they were about to have. It was a tough day.

I woke up the next morning feeling pretty awful – I had one almighty headache and was sick – perhaps a combination of not eating and taking medication the day before.

I arrived at the hospital at 10.15. I reported at the front desk giving my name and the name of the consultant that I was seeing that day. The receptionist said that I needed to have an ultrasound and would I please go to the 2nd floor.

I went up to the 2nd floor – I went to the nurses’ station. The nurses were obviously busy and flying backwards and forwards – one stopped and asked if she could help me – I said that I had been sent up for an ultrasound – she asked my name and  pointed me towards the waiting area asking me to take a seat. There were 3 other people waiting there too. One by one they went in –  a nurse came along and asked my name – again. I gave it to her and she said that they would be long before someone would call me. The third person went in – and then two more people came into the waiting room. Another nurse came along and asked my name again, the two people who came in after me went in. An hour after I have arrived I was still sitting – feeling quite unwell.

Then a nurse came along and asked my name – for the 4th time! She asked me to go back down to the reception desk. No explanation given.

So, I went back down to the main desk – there was a woman (I now know was a secretary) who promptly said “oh there you are – I had to come down to see if you have arrived”.  No introduction to who she was – no name badge that I could see for myself who she was – but was just ordered to “follow me”.

We then went back up to the 2nd floor – and into a different area – I was asked to take a seat and then was called in for my ultrasound. Up to this point I had no idea where I was going or why. I explained to the secretary that I had in fact been in the hospital for over an hour at this point – but no apologies to the fact that I had been sent to the wrong department in the first place. No conversation – just left sat in silence.

Then, after the ultrasound was done I was asked to go BACK down to the main reception desk and report in there. So, off I went.

Got to the ground floor, the receptionist ticked me off ‘her list’ and I was asked to go to the patients waiting room on the lower level. So off I trotted again. At this point I was getting to know the hospital very well.

I waited 5 minutes and was called  – I booked in and was asked to report to the nursing station on the 2nd floor.

So off I went to the 2nd floor again – getting to know this area pretty well at this point – and reported to the nurses’ station – for the second time that morning.

A nurse took me along to the ward and asked me to get ready and pop myself into bed – she then came along and took my blood pressure and gave me an ECG – how on earth they were not both through the roof at this point still amazes me. I certainly felt pretty stressful.

I waited, and I waited – many had already gone down to have their procedure or had already had it done back up and eating tea and toast – and I waited and I waited – nothing – no one came to tell me anything.

Eventually I was taken down – it was about 4.00. I actually have visions at this point of being told they had run out of time and I would have to come back. I wonder if they have ever had a “sit in” from a patient before – because I certainly was going through this again in a hurry. I vowed I would have stayed there until they had done it come hell or high water.

I came back up from my procedure – I should have been left to rest for an hour – but after half an hour the tea and toast was there in front of me. Not that I was complaining at this point – and boy it tastes as good as those roast dinners people were talking about the previous day. If not better.

I looked around – I was the last one in the ward – the nurse then came up and asked who was picking me up – I told her my husband – she asked me to call him which I did.

The cleaners then started coming in the ward clearing up around me – I really felt like I was in the way.

5.30 came and my husband arrived to pick me up.

I was never so pleased to see him and be going home.

I was more than happy with the procedure and the consultant, but I did feel that communication, and patient care could have been a lot better and perhaps prevented me from feeling so very drained and stressed from it all.

Did I really need to go to all of the different places to book in? Had I gone to the lower ground floor first and booked in then on to the 2nd floor that is where the ultra sound and day ward was – why send patients up and down all over the place.

As a manager I certainly would be looking for a more stress free way of admitting patients into the hospital.

There certainly was a lack of communication, and in areas lack of team work – no one knew what the other teams/departments was doing – something that really needs addressing.

And to top it all this was a private hospital – somehow you would expect a slightly better service that what I got.

Carers Group – Does Your Practice Have One


When I started at a surgery I was given the job of Carers Lead. Now back then I didn’t really know much about Carers – in fact to be honest I actually thought that all Carers were in fact paid workers  – those that  looked after people in their home or in a residential home.

How wrong was I? I soon became to realise that there were hundreds of unsung heroes within our practice looking after people day in and day for nothing – they purely did it out of love.

What is a definition of a Carer?

A carer is someone who without payment, provides help and support to a friend neighbour or relative who could not manage otherwise because of frailty, illness or disability including mental health problems and substance misuse.

Anyone can become a carer.

 Carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can of any age. Many feel they are doing what anyone else would in the same situation.

A carer may even be juggling paid work with their unpaid caring responsibilities at home or they may be a young carer – aged 4 – 18 who is also having to attend school.

Most carers will not recognise themselves under the term ‘carer’; they are just people trying to cope as best they can whilst helping to look after a relative or friend who is frail, ill or disabled.

My first job was to identify Carers within the practice. I then started a carers register. Before anyone was added to the register they were always asked first if they wanted to be on the register.

We asked the doctors and nurses to help identify carers – briefly explain that we had a carers register and if they wanted to be part of them to come and see someone in reception.

We put notices up in the surgery asking is anyone wanted to be included in our carers register. We has leaflets in reception and we added it to our monthly newsletter. We added the information to our new patients information sheet.

In reception we would have a carer’s registration form for them to complete. Simple details of their name, contact details and the person they were caring for (often a carer might be caring for someone who was not at our practice – perhaps a neighbour or a friend – but this is about them – the carer and not the cared for patient)  it was important to know if the cared for person was a patient at the surgery or not.

Once the patient agreed to go onto the register I would add them to the computer as a carer.

This was useful for searches, and for all the healthcare professionals to see that they were a carer. Often carer might present themselves to the surgery with symptoms such as bad backs, depression, and exhaustion and not identify it with being a carer – this sometimes can help the healthcare professional identify the carers needs.

A carer can often save the health service a lot of money – if the carer was not there for what ever reason the cared for person would quite possibly end up in hospital, a nursing or residential home.

When the flu season was on the practice nurse would come along at the end of the meeting to give the carers their flu vaccinaction if their required it – this saved them having to come back to the surgery at another time – again this helped them in as much they didnt have to worry about getting sitters in – or leaving the cared for person on their own.

It is so important to look after the needs of a carer.

It helped if we could identify a carer when they wanted to make an appointment. If the receptionist was aware that they were a carer she would try to make sure that the carer had an appointment suited around the person they were caring for. Some carers might have to get the cared for person out of bed in the morning – so a very early appointment might not be good. They might need to be there to feed the cared for person early evening – so again a late appointment would not be suitable – any way we could go to make life easier for the carer we would certainly try to do so.

Once every 3 months I would organise a carers meeting at the surgery. This was usually held at lunchtime in the meeting room.

Carers were encouraged to come along without the person they cared for – this in time proved to be valuable as carers could quite often talk openly about their thoughts, feeling and fears of being a carer without upsetting the person their cared for.

The Carers Meetings became very popular and were always very well attended. We saw many of the same faces every month with more and more joining as time got on. Often carers would come into the practice or phone me to ask when we were holding our next meeting. I was delighted that many men attended these meetings – feedback was they really found these meetings extremely helpful – and many carers formed friendship from these meetings.

I was extremely lucky as I had some very good rep that supported our carers groups and would kindly provide us with light snacks and soft drinks – the practice would supply the tea and coffee.

At each meeting I would have someone to come and talk to the carers – every single one of these “speakers” gave out good sound advice to the carers – some even got information on benefits that they were entitled to and never knew about them.

Some of the speakers came from:

  • Social Services
  • Council – housing benefits
  • Local Hospital – Transport Department
  • Local Fire Officer
  • Carers Society
  • Local Catering Firm – giving advice on meals being delivered
  • Some local business that delivered and gave discounts for carers of the practice
  • Several charities that helped and had good sound advice carers

Every speaker came along for about an hour and all gave their services for free.

But what I did find that was very important was the fact that these carers talked to other carers – other people who understood what they were talking about – what they were going through.

One woman spoke to me after a meeting and said that she had been feeling down, she was caring for her husband and felt so very low – until she spoke to another carer who had a husband that needed far more caring than she did – she then realised that she wasn’t in fact as bad off as some carers. She told me that she stopped feeling sorry for herself and actually realised she was not as bad off as some.

I overheard another chatting to another carer and telling her that she felt so guilty that her husband had recently gone into a home. She said that she was unable to cope with him at home anymore, she admitted she was beginning to resent him for it – and when a place became available for him she remembers feeling relieved, happy and guilty all at the same time. The other carer put her arm around her and said I felt exactly the same – and have been beating myself up with the guilt ever since – I am so pleased that I have you to talk to about it. From that day on they became the best of friends and spent many afternoons together – as they both admitted after caring for someone 24/7 for so long it becomes very hard to fill in those lonely hours.

At Christmas time I would buy a couple of raffle prizes, play some music and give the carers a little treat. For some – especially the elderly this might have been the one and only “christmas” treat that they had.

Well, for me that was worth all the work and effort into getting these meetings together.

The meetings went on from strength to strength and became extremely popular with  the carers of the practice.

So much I started working very closely with Social Services and would often get them along to talk and give help and advise. Our local Social Services was nominated for an award for their work with Carers – something that I was very privileged to be invited to as our work with carers at the practice.

For a little bit of work each month updating records, booking a speaker for the next meeting to asking a friendly rep to help with a bit of light lunch certainly was small fry to seeing how much it helped the carers of the practice.

I certainly did get a lot of job satisfactions from this.

 

They more than deserved it.