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Tuesday, November 25, 2008


It's been a long week. I'm home for a bit, before having to run out and help my mom get to the doctor today.

Her surgery went well, but the nursing care at the hospital wasn't the best. She left the hospital on Saturday night and is now in a transitional care unit in a nursing home, where the nursing care is careless and nonexistent. She's now fighting an infection in her incision which was most certainly caused by careless care.


It's hard to be a nurse and have your mom (who's also a nurse) be a patient. You see so much that is WRONG. And then when you're vocal about it, YOU'RE made to feel WRONG. I've watched nurses not wash their hands between patients, not change my mom's dressing, not be available for assistance, and basically not following or being aware of the surgeon's orders (some of this is not their fault, they are so overworked and understaffed, they don't have time to be meticulous).

I would guess 9 out of 10 nurses and nursing assistants, physical therapists, and occupational therapists snapped and chomped their gum throughout their time with mom. Unprofessional to say the least, gum chewing is a great way to spread your germs around--and to ingest airborne germs from your patients (gross, huh?). Oh and it's just plain annoying. But, the gum chewing isn't a huge deal. That can be fixed with a little policy enforcement and education.

The rest of it, well, it's just a mess. I pity anyone who has to be in the system. And let's face it, we all end up there from time to time. And I would estimate, most people know nothing about how it should be, nor can they advocate for themselves. I pity the poor person who cannot communicate, but who has full awareness (as many do in nursing homes).

Our health care system is so broken. We have to fix it. I watched nurses assigned to twelve heavy load patients. I watched one nursing assistant assigned to an entire hospital unit. I've watched my mom trying to jump through all the hoops, cross all the t's, dot all the i's on the acres of paperwork required by insurance companies, Medicare, and the hospital--AND STILL THERE IS MORE AND STILL THERE WILL BE SOME SILLY LITTLE THING THAT THEY WON'T PAY FOR OR CLAIM THAT SHE DID WRONG SO THAT THEY DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR SOMETHING.

Once in the transitional care unit, I watched my mom not receive her medication for almost twenty four hours. The nurse's excuse, "I forgot and went home." I watched one nurse, responsible for passing medications for an estimated 60 patients as well as be responsible for all of their dressing changes, treatments, and assessments (imagine trying to do that for 8 hours). This job is her second job. She was thrilled to get to work a double shift all night long and is frantically looking for a third job just to meet her living expenses. This while insurance company CEOs and health care administrators make billion dollar salaries.

In my past experience as a nurse, I've watched drug representatives (sales people) bring in free lunches, give away event tickets, and offer free trips for "education" to physicians. I specifically remember a week long trip to Bermuda that one of my docs took with his wife and family, where they handed him a pamphlet about their product, asked him to use it and to remember who paid for the trip. Yep, he kept prescribing the product, even though it was later found to cause severe health issues for it's users.

Corruption. Inadequate care. A broken system.

The lesson from this? We have to abolish the ability to profit from health care in this country. I believe that it should be illegal to profit from human suffering. We have to stop gouging patients, burning out nurses, and not paying staff a living wage. We need to free patients from the worry of paperwork and the fear that they will not be able to afford their care. Or free them from making the decision either to receive care or pay their living expenses. We need to make sure that everyone can just get what they need, when they need it.

In the meantime, teach your children, to be advocates for themselves. My mother can speak for herself. She's educated about her medications and care. She knows a thing or two (or ten) about health care. And yet, she still didn't get good care.

Do not be passive. Speak up. We have to rally and fight for a better system. Because, what we have is broken. It doesn't work. And we are the ones who suffer the consequences.


  1. Elizabeth - I'm so sorry your mom is feeling the effects of the rotted and rotten healthcare system. Healing thoughts her way...

  2. Hi I am from the Twin Cities, too...my mom was hospitalized and also in Transitional Care and it was AWFUL...it made me sick to my stomach. Anyway...I just found your blog! Here is my blog addy



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