January 25, 2011

A Health Literacy Coordinator's Stay at the Hospital

I spent most of last week in "one of the top 100 hospitals in America" at the bedside of my girlfriend who was in for a cholecystectomy. A WHAT??? Oh, sorry. She had her gall bladder removed.

"Cholecystectomy," that's a new word I learned last week, along with about 25 others such as intravenous, intraoperative, supine, phenergran, and on and on. Being that I have spent more hours in the past year researching and working with health literacy than sleeping, I felt well prepared and empowered as my gf's patient advocate. We made a list of questions upon checking into the hospital and continually added to it over the next 4 days. We were relentless in our question asking; getting opinions from everyone from the surgeon to the cleaning lady.

At one point we actually made a nurse feel quite uncomfortable as she was struggling to explain the anti-nausea medicine, phenergran, to her drowsy, scared patient. I was persistent in my repetition of, "Wait, what does that mean?" and "Sclerosed veins? I don't understand, can you tell us what the side effects are in Laymen's terms?" At all of my pestering, the nurse dejectedly admitted, "I'm not a very good teacher. I know what I'm doing but I've never been a good teacher."

The hospital at which we stayed has the mission to "strive to provide exceptional care to every patient every day with a spirit of warmth, friendliness and personal pride." I believe them. Although striving to provide this exceptional, patient-centered care, and regardless of their ranking as a top 100 hospital, my girlfriend and I saw HUGE room for improvement. I hope I see those direct-care staff again someday and I hope that when that time comes, that they are sitting in on one of the Literacy Coalition's Health Literacy Trainings. I'm proud to provide a product that drastically improves patient-provider communication and patient-care, even at a top 100 hospital.

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