Interviewing a patient at hospital

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The purpose of visiting a hospital was to find out how a hospital is run and the experiences of patients who were receiving treatment there. Interviewing a patient gave me the opportunity to develop my own communication skills. It also allowed me to discover the pros and cons of healthcare in a hospital and assess how I would treat patients in the future as a doctor. I interviewed a 29 year old man, NM, who works as an international sales manager. His job involves lots of travelling to various countries such as Scandinavia and Asia so he told me he enjoyed it but it is tiring.

He is single and lives alone. He was admitted in hospital because he was suffering from an aneurism in the brain and has been in hospital for 3 weeks. He has been in hospital before to have an operation on his sinuses but the experience was entirely different as he was allowed to go home after a few days. He was not too sure about when he will be allowed to go home but has been told that it may vary between 2 days and 2 weeks after the operation. This was the first time that he was not able to do anything and had to lie flat most of the time.

He found the lack of independence frustrating. He discussed the weeks leading up to being admitted into hospital. The first time he felt pains was when he was using the cross trainer in the gym. He felt light headed and sick. He was sweating a lot and felt stiffness in his shoulders. The gym attendant suggested that he felt pains because he hadn’t eaten for a long while and gave him some glucose tablets. He still felt sick after some time and his mother was called to the gym. His mother decided that an ambulance should be called and he was taken to Hemel Hampstead Hospital.

He remained at A & E for 6 hours in which time his blood sugar level, blood pressure and heart rate were monitored and he was also given injections. Unfortunately, they could not identify what was wrong and sent him home after giving painkillers. The next day he went to see his GP who requested several tests to be carried out. The GP thought it could be acute viral infection. Therefore NM took 2 weeks off work. He suffered from the same symptoms again. He had gone to hospital several times because of the pain.

After being at home for 2 weeks he felt a wave of pain like pins and needles on the whole of the left side of his body, even his tongue felt numb. He lost use of his left leg and started to stumble and lose his balance. He rang NHS direct and spent 3 hours in hospital and then was advised him to go home and see a neurologist about his symptoms. A couple of days later, he felt ill again and when he tried to get up he kept falling over. Luckily his mother had come to see him and found him on the bathroom floor.

She called an ambulance and he was taken to his local hospital, Hemel Hampstead. He remained in hospital for a week. A CAT scan and two MRI scans were taken. They spotted a ‘grey area’ on this scan and were not sure if he was suffering from a stroke or if he had a tumour. This was one of the most nerve racking moments because no one was sure what was wrong with him. He was transferred to the Royal Free hospital because it had a specialist neurology department. At the Royal Free he had a different scan involving iodine which identified that he was suffering from an aneurism.

He was told that it was like a blister which had burst and caused the symptoms which he was suffering from. He felt the care that he was receiving was excellent and he especially acknowledged the fact that everything was explained well. However, he said that the neurosurgeon that was present when he was having the scan used a lot of jargon that he didn’t understand and felt unintelligent as a result. He reflected on what qualities he thought a doctor should have and told me that he thought doctors should have compassion, patience, good bedside manner and simplify explanations to their patients.

He also commented on the nurses. He found that most nurses were amazing and were quickly to tackle any problems. However he commented on the night agency nurses who took ten minutes to measure his blood pressure at night which he thought was awful. Overall, he felt his experience at this hospital was better than Hemel Hampstead even though he had his own private room there. He actually found the hospital food was quite nice despite what he has been told about it. He enjoyed the custard and the puddings that they served in particular.

In general he finds that most of the day he is bored and feels that he is lucky to have his mother visit him. He complained about it being difficult to sleep because it would be noisy and that some of the staff were raising their voices to add to this. He cant wait to go home because he longs to be more independent. He found it embarrassing in hospital where he can’t go to the toilet on his own and had to use a pan. He didn’t find this dignifying at all. He become more stressed in the hospital environment and felt that being at home would put him at ease.

This experience has taught him to not take simple things for granted such as being able to sit upright on the settee and watch TV. This whole experience has had a huge impact on him and hopes that would look around him in a new light. At home he knows that he would have to take things slowly until he builds up his fitness again. I had never been admitted in hospital and so the interview allowed me to empathise with the patient and question what I would feel if I was in his shoes.

If I was in a position where I could not do anything for myself and had no choice but to look at a white hospital ceiling for hours, how would I feel? The patient reflected that most of the healthcare professionals tried to make his stay as bearable as possible and appreciated their hard work. The underlying point that has been emphasised is that communication skills are very important because the patient will gain some reassurance if they understand what is wrong with them, why certain tests are being down and why they have chosen a certain type of treatment to resolve it.

I also discovered that the patient was cared for by many different healthcare professionals, nurses, doctors, surgeons, technicians who took the various test also between primary care ( the GP), secondary care (Hemel Hampstead hospital) and tertiary care (Royal free because it has a specialist neurology department). This network of information has to be sustained by various types of communication such as verbal or written and is important so that patients can be treated effectively.

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