I recently spent some time in a hospital, as a patient. I was at the University of Washington Medical Center to be exact, in the emergency room (3 times in one day!) and as a regular patient for 2 nights. The UWMC was recently ranked the 12th best hospital in the nation by US News & World Report. While my experience there was not horrible, it was very frustrating at times; it makes me wonder what it would be like to be a patient at the 1012th best hospital in the nation.

The nurses were friendly but completely overextended. The first night, my IV kept getting blocked and, though I figured out how to get the IV pump to stop beeping, I could not reset the pump and get it running again. I had to wait for a nurse, and wait I did, repeatedly and often for 30 minutes. No big deal, I thought, but annoying.

After the first night, the doctors were concerned I had a kidney infection so they prescribed some IV antibiotics, at about 9:30am or so, and decided I should stay in the hospital another night. There was some problem with how the order was written up for the pharmacy (someone said the doctor didn’t sign the order, someone else said the pharmacy didn’t understand the order…). I still hadn’t received any antibiotics by 2 in the afternoon, at which point I realized that my IV had infiltrated, so they would have to start a new line. Shift changes, busy nurses, but finally someone removed the blown IV, maybe around 3:30. She tried to start a new one, in three different spots, but couldn’t. Got another nurse; she tried and failed twice. Then, they got the nurse that can always get a line; he tried three times, and failed all three times. Everyone was very apologetic and I was trying my best to find some humor in the situation but was mostly feeling really uneasy. Finally, sometime close to 6pm, they paged the “stat nurse,” one of the roving nurses that responds when they need an extra hand in an emergency. She got a IV going in 30 seconds. Sigh.

The second night, my IV was much less annoying, but at one point the IV fluid ran out and the pump started beeping. I “snoozed” it a few times, but got sick of it beeping every couple of minutes. I took matters into my own hands and shut the pump off completely, so that it wouldn’t keep beeping. I didn’t know when a nurse would get to it. 30 minutes later, a nurse arrived and discovered that I’d turned the pump off. I told her why I did it, but she was really irritated and explained that I could have caused my IV to be blocked and since it took 8 tries to get the new IV line in, I really didn’t want that, etc. My turn to be irritated! The previous night, I’d sat countless times for 15, 20, 30 minutes waiting for someone to fix that blasted IV. Maybe, if it’d been fixed promptly, I wouldn’t have needed that second 8 poke line; the first one would have still been working. Sigh.

The IV eventually did infiltrate the next day but they decided to simply take it out and send me home. All of which took hours, of course. Sigh.

So, not awful, but irritating. Especially when all sore and oversensitized to pain in the wake of the kidney stone. Chronically ill patients have a lot to fight against in our health system.