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Volunteer Diary: Day 8

August 6th, 2011  |  Published in Volunteering

quality in hospital is routinely evaluatedAt the Hospital, there is a slew of quality checks performed routinely by the administrative staff. They float through the hallways with clipboards, checking to ensure that the nurses are repeating orders and information they receive via telephone, verifying the patients’ consent, etc. I imagine they peruse the corridors once per quarter, but I am not sure. The Hospital is clean and standard, in my opinion, for a private hospital. For the executives, there is a large suite reminiscent of a men’s lounge on the top floor; the room is dim and furnished with dark cherry wood furniture, perhaps something you would expect to adorn a meeting room on Wall Street. This is such a sharp contrast with the rest of the hospital; I am sure that decorating the rest of this hospital in such a way would be inappropriate. However, I am guessing that this room was designed to sway investors to begin or continue supporting the Hospital’s endeavors, and again reminds me how commercial our medical system has become, more increasingly so since post-World War II. Of course, I wasn’t alive in the immediate years following World War II, but if you read any sort of history of our medical system, you’ll understand what I mean.

The argument for privatization of hospitals parallels that for the privatization of prisons; that is, private investors have greater capital and manpower to improve the quality of care and ensure consistency in care than public funded institutions. Sometimes though, I question the efficacy of privatization. Some of the methods at the Hospital seem inefficient, such as the maintenance of both a paper and electronic medical records system. Similarly ridiculous is the distribution of  thousands of paper vouchers that cover the cost of parking to the employees rather than utilizing an electronic parking pass system or at the very least, parking decals.

But perhaps these methods haven’t been improved because the Hospital is choosing to allocate resources to improve patient care; this would be great. I suspect though that the initial cost of overhauling the system to an entirely electronic system is greater than they want to spend, so they are continuing to spend likely thousands of dollars printing the parking vouchers on tiny pieces of paper, that although reused, likely become wrinkled and so worn out that like old currency, they must be eventually destroyed and replaced. Nonetheless, the quality of patient care is top-notch, which is most important.

This aside, my work at the hospital was routine. I did the usual: replenish and reorganize. I also hole-punched papers for use in the patient files. The Hospital prints everything on hole-punched papers to save time and allow quick filling of the binders that hold patients’ files. Usually we order the paper from the supplier and it comes pre-punched, but as usual, ineffective supply-chain management meant that the paper never showed up. I hole-punched about half of a ream of paper rather crudely, so I hope that no one notices that the holes aren’t as neat as industrial-standard. As I tired out my wrist forcing the hole-puncher to pivot and punch, I wished for an electronic hole puncher to appear, or at least some WD-40 to grease the machine…

I have become more adept at rolling hospital stretchers around, but each stretcher is irritatingly different. The levers to raise and lower the bed are always in different places, some have weird latches and some don’t. I have been trying to remember to actually lock the wheels of the stretcher after I leave it in a room so that the patient doesn’t go flying across the room when they try to sit on it, but by the time I figure out how to put the bed level and lowered, I often forget.  If you are ever helping someone into a wheelchair, either put the brakes on it or stand behind the chair and hold it in place. Today this poor patient sat down and then scooted back about 4 inches as I struggled with the chair’s massive leg rests so she wouldn’t bruise their shins. But, they enjoyed the wheelchair ride nonetheless. Since none of their family members were trailing behind us I was able to walk relatively quickly to the exit of the Hospital where her ride awaited. Usually I have to maintain a somewhat normal pace so that the family can stay close and chat about whatever random things they feel like talking about in the presence of a stranger (me.)

I had an interview today for my pre-medical-school dream job! I was really ecstatic and nervous all day today, and somewhat distracted while at the Hospital. This is a position that I am hoping to maintain during my gap year between receiving my undergraduate degree and (hopeful!) entrance to medical school. It is medically related, and if I get the position I promise I’ll blog about it without violating HIPAA!

I am not sure how many readers I have, but I hope that you guys that do read aren’t too disappointed by my lack of details about patient care. Quite honestly I do not see very much of it; I do hear from the nurses random things about the medication and vital signs of the patients, but I am too busy to memorize any of it, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to share. Also, hearing about someone’s heart rate and ability to tolerate fluid is really boring for anyone to read about. Let me know if there is any aspect of volunteering that you are interested in reading about!

Also, let me know in the comments your opinion on privatization of health care; I’d like to hear your perspective and really begin to create a dialogue.