A few nights in, or next to, a hospital bed can reveal hospitalization to be a less than ideal healing experience. Alarm bells ring incessantly, nurses visit throughout the night to check vitals or refresh IV bags. Sometimes the patient awakes to a large needle in the gluteus maximus.
Below is a list of ways to be a proactive, wholesome presence to someone you love in the intimidating environment of monitors, needles, doctors and procedures.
1) Worship the nurses.
In his article "On Breaking One’s Neck" in the New York Times, researcher and medical educator Dr. Lawrence Altman revealed his epiphany about nurses when he ended up gravely injured after a fall.
After his catastrophic injury and long hospital stay Altman wrote, “I had never before understood how much good nursing care contributes to patients’ safety and comfort, especially when they are very sick or disabled.”
Most of a patient’s care is administered by nurses, not doctors. A happy nurse makes for a happy patient, so treat nurses well. Bring a fruit basket to the nurses' station. Many bagel shops can deliver bagels, fruit trays or coffee. Starbucks offers a “Coffee Traveler,” a carrier with enough coffee for a group.
2) Ask everyone to wash their hands.
Asking may feel awkward, but handwashing in hospitals saves lives.
Studies have shown that less than 30 percent of hospital workers wash their hands of their own volition, reported the New York Times. Make it a habit to ask the nurses, doctors and other visitors the moment they enter the room.
3) Be pleasantly involved.
Know the nurses' names. Ask the doctors informed questions. Take notes.
Fatigue, fear and medication can make it difficult for the patient to understand what is being said. Your notes can provide comfort and understanding in a confusing time.
4) Bring flowers or plants.
Hospital rooms are as pretty as the inside of a paper cup. Spruce things up.
5) Bring books and magazines or audio books.