What personal care hospitalized patients now get is mostly from nurses. In the MGH ICU the nursing care was superb; at Spaulding it was inconsistent. I had never before understood how much good nursing care contributes to patients’ safety and comfort, especially when they are very sick or disabled. This is a lesson all physicians and hospital administrators should learn. When nursing is not optimal, patient care is never good.
Even in the best of hospitals, with the best of medical and nursing care, the ICU can be a devastating psychological experience for patients—as it was for me. Totally helpless, deprived of control over one’s body, ICU patients desperately need the comforting presence of family and loved ones. I was fortunate to have that support, but some others in the MGH ICU were not. I can only hope they received extra attention from their nurses.
Arnold Relman, a physician with more than six decades of experience, broke his neck and discovered what it’s like to be critically ill and cared for under today’s health care system. He wrote about the experience for The New York Review of Books. Read more stories about health care at Longreads.
Photo: Army Medicine
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