As you may know, I am a Registered Nurse. I work on a busy medical floor in a large hospital. After working there for nearly 3 years I have grown accustomed to the hospital environment. I have realized though that a hospital is a strange place. There are things about it that are anything but ordinary. In many ways, it has its own culture.
I recently took care of a patient who was 95 and had not ever been in a hospital. Everything that we were doing was new to her. And it was very confusing. From my experience with her, I came up with a list of strange and funny things about hospitals.
1. Everything has a noise
The hospital beds, the IV pumps(multiple sounds and beeps), the paper towel dispenser, the soap and hand sanitizer, other medical equipment and alarms all have their own unique sound. We even have an alarm that lets us know when a patient is getting out of bed or their chair. We have phones, doctors have pagers. There is a call light system to help us communicate with patients. It is a very noisy place. Part of the problem is that life never stops in a hospital. It is a 24-hour facility. We actually offer our patients earplugs because we know it is a noisy place.
2. Oh and a smell
Not much more is needed to be said here. This is a common unfortunate truth about the hospital. We do our best to minimize the smells but it is a challenge!
3. Hospital attire for employees and patients is unique
I’ve always wondered who invented the hospital gown. They always have a very fashionable pattern. Snap up sleeves, and they are open in the back. They are basically the opposite of all normal clothing…While they are helpful for surgical procedures, they aren’t super practical otherwise. You need to wear two in order to cover yourself adequately. Nearly every elderly or confused patient is VERY confused about them. They often put them on backward, or take them off altogether, which is another problem in itself.
Hospital scrubs are a little more fashionable than hospital gowns. They come in multiple patterns and colors. They come in multiple styles. While I have found some that I love and think look awesome, the general public may think otherwise. Apparently, some still do wear skirts too. Scrubs are super comfortable and supposedly bacteria like them less.
Then there are the special yellow gowns we call “isolation gowns”. Most of the time they are yellow and are meant to cover most of your body. They are meant to prevent the spread of bad germs. We are instructed to wear them based on a list from the CDC. Most commonly for MRSA, C.diff, VRE, and other abbreviations you may have heard of. A hospital is a germy place and these fashionable yellow gowns are meant to keep them cleaner. We even encourage family members to wear these special gowns.
4. There are signs everywhere
And some of them are in code. NPO? AICD? No venipuncture or B/P? HOH? Strict I&Os? Contact precautions? 24-hour urine collection(eww?) Fluid restriction?
Most of the signs are for us. We have a lot to remember and these signs help us to do so. They also serve as reminders of important details about the patient.
There are also a lot of signs for our visitors. What can we say? We like visual communication. The hospital can be an overwhelming place so I think the signs are meant to help guide you through the new experience.
5. We are way too comfortable talking about bodily functions
You probably won’t get through a hospital stay without us asking about your bathroom habits. They are important to your overall health. While it may be an awkward topic for you, we are very used to it. So don’t be alarmed about this.
We often need a specimen of bodily fluids to test. Another odd thing about hospitals. We even have something we use to catch specimens called a “hat”. I’m not sure who came up with that, but it’s always hilarious to describe to my patients. I mean it does kind of look like a hat, but I don’t think anyone would want to wear it…
6. We are pretty nosey
We want to know everything about you. Every medication, every surgery you’ve had, allergies, etc. We even want to know if you live in a house or apartment…Yup, it’s true. We want to make sure that you are safe to go home after your hospital stay. Because the fact is many patients are not able to. We want to know everything about you and your living situation so that we can help you find a better place to live if needed. All of this information helps us know you better and care for you better. It is still kind of weird though.
7. The greatest luxury we have to offer is the warm blanket
Staying in the hospital is far from a luxury experience. The food is just ok. The sheets are shabby and often don’t stay on the bed. The blankets are scratchy. The heaters either work too well or not at all. The treatments and medications must be given at any time of day(including the middle of the night).
The greatest thing we have to offer you is a warm blanket. They are just a blanket that’s been placed in a warm compartment of sorts. It actually looks kind of like a refrigerator but it is warm instead of cold. Everyone loves a warm blanket. We offer them frequently as a way to increase your comfort. Unfortunately, they don’t stay warm very long. Even that moment of warmth is worth it though.
Nobody likes to be sick or be in the hospital. As nurses, our job is to make your stay endurable. Our main goal is to help you feel better and leave the hospital. We always encourage our patients to voice their questions and concerns. And we always explain what we are doing since we know it is kind of strange!