Many of you may remember David Clarke, our CEO from 1996 – 2002 (having previously been Chief Financial Officer from 1991 – 1993 and Chief Operating Officer from 1993 – 1996). Recently, David had a cycling accident which saw him admitted to Middlemore Hospital. Today I’ve asked him to share his observations about his time as a patient at our hospital.
Two months ago I had a road cycling accident while riding in a peloton in Clevedon. I came off my bike and landed on my face, and three of my riding “mates” then ran over me. Fortunately St John was on hand and quickly transferred me to Middlemore.
At this point I have to say that there’s no place I would rather have received care. I did try to get out of hospital as early as possible but that wasn’t a reflection on Middlemore, more that I wanted to get home as soon as I could (and of course minimize the costs for the DHB!). The service I received, during my five days at Middlemore and three outpatient appointments at Manukau SuperClinic, was fantastic and the whole experience was exceptionally positive.
Given my background, however, being admitted to hospital did give me lots of food for thought about what it means to be a patient and how our healthcare system works. My first few hours in the Emergency Department (ED) were pretty hazy but I do remember reflecting on the value of experience and senior expertise in healthcare. The St John staff who scraped me off the road thought I had a broken collarbone and hip, a diagnosis which was confirmed by the third doctor (a SMO) I saw in ED some two hours after arriving (much to the delight of the St John ladies). Even with all the x-rays, the first two doctors initially thought nothing was broken, then just the collarbone. The SMO and St John staff had considerable experience and expertise, the value of which became clear to me that day.
I received a highly professional service in ED before being admitted to a Plastics ward as an outlier (I was really an Orthopaedic patient). This worked well but highlighted to me the importance of continuity of care, particularly at what I call ‘boundaries’ such as transitions from one service to another. For example, I was taken to Radiology for an x-ray and left for about 2 hours. Overall, I spent five days in hospital, the equivalent of 15 hospital shifts. During that time I saw a lot of different nurses and took to memorizing my drug and therapy regimes so that I could explain them to each new staff member. The nurses were all incredibly professional and fantastic, but there is a challenge in ensuring continuity of care across shift changes or when a patient transfers from one service to another.
It’s not all the responsibility of clinical staff. Patients, too, need to take some responsibility for their care. I always suggest people monitor their medications when they go to hospital. No one goes to work to do a bad job but with the patient workload, work pressure and paper-based medication system, unintentional medication errors can happen. During my stay, I had a bad reaction to some of my medication and I made sure it was noted in my medical notes. I’d encourage other patients to help take a load off busy clinical staff by taking similar responsibility for their outcomes while in hospital.
During my stay I also saw patients complaining about the smallest details and I couldn’t help thinking ‘don’t sweat the small stuff!’. There are so many staff in hospital trying to do the best for their patients and occasionally someone gets the wrong breakfast (for the record this didn’t happen and the food was delicious). Don’t worry about it. The staff are dedicated, professional people working very hard who, I think, would respond well to respect and kindness from their patients.
All of this is very easy to say as someone who’s recently experienced the hospital system but you don’t really understand what happens in healthcare until you, or someone close to you, is involved. It’s not like buying something through the internet – the delivery of healthcare is a personalised, one-on-one practice. My lasting impression was that everyone was there for the same reason – to deliver high quality care to their patients. I’m just so grateful for the care I received and thank all the staff involved.
Thanks David. It’s really interesting to read observations from a patient with your background and there are definitely some things to think on. I’m really pleased to hear that your experience was exceptionally positive and that another patient was discharged having received the high quality care we pride ourselves on.