I spent about 6 hours yesterday sitting in A&E of the Royal Infirmary with my dad from 6am to 12noon.
Not once did anyone use the antibacterial handwash in his bay. Not once. But then it was empty so they wouldn’t have had much joy anyway. I did ask a few folk if they’d give me a new one but no joy.
Dad was hooked up to 15 minute blood pressure which was taken automatically, along with his oxygen level and resps. From time to time a nurse had to come in and write these figures down. Most of the time they didn’t say a word to my Dad. No “How are you?” No “I’m just taking a note of this for your file.” No “Everything is looking fine, don’t worry.” No “Can you get you anything?” No nursing. Just note-taking.
At around 8am Dad decided it was breakfast time. I asked a nurse if it was okay to get him a coffee from the machine in the waiting room. “No,” she replied, “we’ll get it. Just give me a minute.” An hour later I asked the same nurse if he could get a drink as he suffers from dehydration occasionally and is diabetic. “Here’s a cup of water.” At 10am I asked a nurse who had come to write things down again if they ever got breakfast in this place. (For I’m pretty sure all the nurses did.) “Only if they are well enough to eat and drink,” was the reply. “Well, he is,” I said. “<Sigh> Alright, I’ll get someone to get it for him. Toast ok? Coffee?” A young smiley nurse brought it to us 10 minutes later. I didn’t see anyone else being offered anything and not all of them were on death’s door. Far from it, as far as I could see. No wonder they are ill.
The doctor was called away 3 times in the course of speaking to us. I have no complaint about that. There were other sick people. He always came back, sometimes after an hour, and apologised. (Dad thought he was too young to be a consultant!)
Dad was to be kept in for observation for it may have been a heart attack but there were no beds. We were told we’d just have to wait. But then someone came in who was quite poorly so dad was put out of his cubicle and parked beside the nurses bay in the corridor. He was meant to be on oxygen but the nurse who was going to get some portable oxygen never returned.
In the course of our time there I watched nurses deal with a drug overdose patient hand-cuffed to 2 policemen. They wore gloves while dealing with her but then would come out and answer the phone while wearing the gloves. What about the next person who picks up with phone without gloves?
I saw lots of things. What I didn’t see was nursing. What I didn’t see was caring.
Is that too harsh? Were they busy? Yes, I’d say they were kept pretty busy. But how much longer would it have taken to talk while doing the blood-taking, or the ECG, or pillow plumping – oh sorry, I forgot, there were no pillows. A shortage. I didn’t see hand-holding, reassuring arms round shoulders, listening. Too busy to listen perhaps? A listening shortage. I saw nurses deal with a patient and go back to the computer screens and stand and click the mouse until the next task. Filling in on-line forms? Possibly. But most of the time they didn’t type anything, just stood and swirled the mouse around while looking about – but never catching a relative’s eye.
I realise that emergency medicine is different from ward nursing. But I don’t accept that they are too busy to talk and reassure. And I don’t accept that a system can’t be put in place that someone makes breakfast for those in the emergency ward. For they were not all emergencies, as far as I could see.
Bring back Matron. Not to swish around checking the nurses are all working. No, a Matron who walks round the beds asking the patients if everything is okay.