December 4, 2018

I’VE WRITTEN ABOUT THIS MYSELF: Why Hospitals Should Let You Sleep.

Here’s what I wrote:

It’s other places where they fall down. Being in the hospital is an exhausting, draining experience even if you aren’t sick. I spent a lot of time, and a couple of nights, there, and I felt like I had been run over by a truck. Imagine how I’d have felt if I had been, you know, a patient with something actually wrong with me.

Sleep interruptions are one problem. The floor below my wife’s housed the sleep-disorder clinic, where they monitor people and try to help them overcome various problems, like sleep apnea, so that they can achieve an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Ironically, it’s probably the only place in the hospital where they let you sleep all night long if you want. My wife was interrupted, on average, about every 90 minutes or so all night long: To have blood drawn, to have vital signs checked, to have her temperature taken, to be given medications (“wake up, it’s time for your sleeping pill” isn’t just a hospital joke) and, most irritatingly, to be weighed.

Now, there are good reasons for a lot of this stuff. Medications have to be given at certain times, temperatures have to be monitored, and so on. Even the weight is important, especially for cardiac patients where fluid balance often matters a lot. (Though not in my wife’s case, as her problems were different.)

But the end result of all of this stuff, especially when it’s spread over the evening, is a huge amount of stress on somebody who’s already under stress from illness. I don’t think that anyone has done the experiment (as has in fact been done with regard to mental hospitals) of hospitalizing some healthy grad students for a couple of weeks and then measuring their condition on discharge, but I’m pretty sure I know what the result would be: Most of them would come out in far worse shape than they were when they entered, even if they managed to avoid other hospital hazards like nosocomial infections or malnutrition from lousy hospital food. And I rather doubt that anyone familiar with hospitals and hospitalization would disagree. That suggests to me that somebody ought to be thinking harder about ways of making the hospital environment more patient-friendly. It’s impossible to make a hospital as stress-free as, say, a spa or a hotel, but it seems to me that with a bit of planning and organization it would be possible to do a lot better than we’re doing now. (And several of the nurses with whom I discussed this problem agreed.) Like the traditional hospital gowns, an awful lot of things seem to be “flimsy, drab, and designed for the practitioner’s convenience rather than for the patient’s comfort.” It’s time for that to change.

More at the link.

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