Back when my mom was in the Intensive Care Unit a couple of weeks ago, I was blown away not only by the quality of attention and care that she received, but also by the bedside manner of the staff. Not only did they demonstrate tremendous compassion, but they actually encouraged questions and took the time to explain things — imagine that!
It was a totally different experience than what I have encountered in my own so-called health care for chronic pain. I have since been wondering if the difference is a reflection of this particular hospital and its staff; if it is the function of the condition being treated; or if it is some combination thereof.
Perhaps Western medicine is set up to slice and dice and insert tubes, and Western medical practitioners are primed to feel compassion for those with blood and guts hanging out; but the same systems and practitioners fail those with less extreme conditions.
And perhaps that is why, when my mother was transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit, and when her condition came to demand more finesse from healthcare practitioners, her treatment took a nosedive.
Take the issue of turning her every two hours (so that she would not develop bedsores): My mother had broken bones all over her body; yet somehow, several nurses failed to consider giving my mother pain medication before jolting her body this way and that – despite my mother’s and my repeatedly asking for her pain meds to be administered more regularly.
What’s more, it was my mother who had to school the nurses on how to turn her without causing excruciating pain:
- Go extremely slowly
- Verbally check-in about each move before making it.
- Listen carefully to feedback about hand position.
It was only this week, when my mom got transferred to the unit for senior citizens, that she began receiving the kind of attention and gentle care that she needed post-operation. I’m now very curious about the difference in training of staff in different hospital units. I’m also eager to offer Dancing with Pain® workshops to hospital practitioners, to help facilitate more understanding of and compassion for patients in pain.