The Secret Language of Hospitals

You don’t want to be in the hospital—you would rather be home. But remember that the hospital staff doesn’t want you either. You increase their workload and add to the financial burden of providing food, electricity, and clean linens. So to make the hospital transition easier, I am decoding the secret language of hospitals. I can do that. I’ve been here for weeks with an infected hip replacement joint and may continue here for several more months.

Once you are installed in your bed, room, ward—or whatever term is used in your part of the world—you will be handed a “buzzer” and told to ring the nurse if you need anything. Keep in mind that the person who told you this made no promises. You will ring the buzzer and for a long time—no one will come. Eventually, someone from the lower echelon of nursing will come—to turn off the buzzer. Don’t expect this person to solve your problem. Their rank means that they are only allowed to bring towels, and water, etc. The buzzer-minder will fly into the room, turn off the red button, ask you if you need anything. When you reply—he or she will say, “I’ll ask the Nurse.”

Maybe the buzzer minder does ask the nurse. Maybe he or she forgets in their hurried flight around the corridor turning off red buttons. In any event, Nurse will not show up to fix your problem until it fits into Nurse’s schedule.

Now a word about time in the hospital. It’s relative. Here is a basic guide: when someone says, “I’ll be back in one wee second,” it actually means five minutes. “Two wee seconds” usually translates to within 45 minutes. Usually. If someone says, “I’ve told Nurse. She/he is with another patient and will be here as soon as possible—rip those lines and tubes out of your body and flee. The other patient takes priority over you. They all take priority over you.

When you are told, “a wee scratch,” grab the bed frame and hang on. It’s gonna hurt.

When you are told, “Someone will be here after we hand off the patients to the new shift”…keep yourself entertained by eavesdropping. Don’t worry about stealth—no matter how late at night or how early in the morning—they won’t be quiet. Each new shift begins with a party as the old-comers greet the new comers. You can pick up some fascinating stories just by listening. Maybe even about you.

Please don’t take this as a criticism of any hospital in any country, and certainly not the one in which I’m residing at the moment. The staff is busy and overworked and the patient load is heavy. That’s actually to your benefit. See, if you are as naïve and trusting as I am—when someone promises or says they are going to do something—you believe them. Shame on you. Wise up. A hospital stay is the perfect vehicle to teach patience and skepticism. When you live long enough, you will realize that people seldom mean what they say. They don’t always keep promises. After a hospital stay, those truths will become engrained. You will be amazed when someone does follow through on their words. It will make you thankful. It will create in you new levels of appreciation. And we can all benefit from a grateful heart full of appreciation.

Pray and have others pray for you. You’re going to make it. Perhaps not on your timescale, but God loves you. You may not feel like anyone’s favorite at the hospital or like you rate first place—but you rate first place with God and He will never leave you or forsake you. And He will come alongside you during those long dark nights in between the boisterous parties at the nurses’ station and give you strength and peace. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

6 thoughts on “The Secret Language of Hospitals

  1. Oh Steph, I was hoping to hear you’d gone home by now. Do let me know what’s happening? It must be endlessly frustrating to be in your shoes at the moment and I’m so sorry you’re having your patience tested so. Keep smiling, my friend. I’m thinking of you!

  2. So sorry to hear you are not home yet. It is frustrating being in the patient’s position. It’s also frustrating being on the medical staff’s position when a patient doesn’t get well as soon as expected. Yes, they are overworked, sometimes having to put in 16 hours shifts. I’ve worked in the clerical field in hospitals, and have many clinical friends who work in hospitals. God bless them. I believe most of them are doing their best to take care of the patients. I’ve also been a patient many times in a hospital. When you don’t know what’s going on with the staff, it can be extremely frustrating when you don’t have your call answered. The bright side to this is that our Lord is always there at your side. He knows what’s going on, and he’s taking care of you. Rest in that thought. So glad you know that already, Steph. And yes, ask everyone…EVERYONE to pray for you and the staff.

    Please keep us updated on your return to home life. How is Alan doing during all this. And Savannah. I’m sure she misses both of you. Praying for all three of you.

  3. Oh Stephanie, I’m so sorry! I pray you will soon be released and back home. Hospital stays are no vacation, even with the best care, and latest and greatest of everything. It just stinks. I know you are in good hands, the Father’s mighty hands. Sending love and prayers for quick recovery.

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