June Baby Changed Policies (Our Story, Part 2)

So…… think back to June 20th, when I went to the hospital for my ultrasound. Re-read “My Story… Part 1” if you haven’t already.

This is a letter I wrote to the hospital shortly after that experience. I have chosen to leave out the name of the hospital for their privacy. This is still by far the place I would want to go if I or someone I loved needed medical care! They are “my favorite hospital.”

To Whom It May Concern: 

On June 9, 2012, I found I was expecting my second child. My husband and I were thrilled. I set up a doctor’s appointment for later in July, we started talking about seeing all our favorite nurses at “my favorite hospital” again, and were truly filled with joy that we would be bringing another baby into this world to join our two and a half year old at home! 

On June 18, 2012, I started spotting. I called my general practitioner who had done all my prenatal care with my first child. They ordered some blood work to be done and prepared me for all outcomes. The test results were promising, but since I was still spotting three days later, the doctor ordered an ultrasound to see what was going on. 

When I was asked where I would like to have the ultrasound, I didn’t hesitate at all. Of course I would go to “my favorite hospital”, where I had multiple ultrasounds with my first pregnancy, where I attended childbirth education classes, where I spent many hours having NST’s prior to delivery, and where I ultimately had a fabulous birth experience with my son. I have seen dying cancer patients being treated with the upmost of respect, ER patients treated with great care, heart patients getting extra love and attention, NICU babies (my own) have the best treatments possible, and many more wonderful success stories. There was no doubt in my mind where I would go. 

When the nurse from my doctor’s office called to let me know of the ultrasound, she informed me that I would be a “hold and call.” I knew then, that if I was sent away, everything was fine, but if I was “held,” then something wasn’t right with the baby. 

I was “held.” I knew then what it meant, but sat quietly waiting for my call. During my wait, another patient received their call… right there in the lobby. As I listened to one end of the conversation, taking place in a public space, not more than ten feet away from me, I overheard theirs as being good news. Surely my call would be in an office space, or back room, since I already knew mine would not have a happy ending. 

My call came shortly after, and the receptionist, being hospital policy I’m sure, tried to hand me the phone there. I stepped back, shook my head, and said, “not here.” The look in her eyes was devastation. She now knew my news, too. She immediately grabbed tissues for me and found an alternate place for me to take the call (which was still rather public, but at least not out in the giant waiting room for all to hear.) 

Why do you have to put your receptionist in that position, of having to make a frazzled decision of where to send someone for a phone call? And more importantly, why do you place your patients in that situation? I knew what my news would be and asked for a different location. My husband and I were half expecting this news; it wasn’t thrown at us completely out of the blue. However, I have a feeling that not all patients are like this. Not knowing, some patients probably would have taken that call in the waiting room. 

Receiving news of that manner in a public place is not fair to the patient. Calls like that are not fun ones to take. Trust me, being told that your baby has never developed, has no heartbeat, and the fact that you will miscarry… while standing in a back hallway of the hospital with other patients, doctors, technicians, and nurses walking by staring at you, just makes your heart crumble a little more. I can only imagine what it would have been if I had been out in the full waiting room. 

Do the doctor’s know this is where we (the patient) “receive their call?” If they do, I bet most of them would be waiting and calling us at home, rather than having us in the public waiting room to be completely humiliated in front of strangers. I will most certainly be telling my doctor’s office about this policy so they know what their patients have to go through. And, I will never again wait for my call there. They will call me at home with good or bad news, where I can be in the privacy of my own home. 

I am not asking for a luxurious hotel room with all the latest amenities. I just want to see patients treated with respect and given privacy for such news. A small, simple room with a couple chairs and a phone is all you need. There, the family can take their call in private, ask the questions they wish to ask without the world knowing of their condition. It gives them a chance to take a minute to gain their composure before walking out passed all those other patients again. They may witness the tear stained faces, but they won’t know the details hidden in those tears. 

Please consider making a change to your hospital regulations of how “hold and call” patients are treated. Those of us getting bad news would greatly appreciate it. 

Thank you for your consideration. 

I hand delivered this letter to them on a Wednesday about a week later. I just asked the receptionist to make sure it got to the appropriate person, whether that be the department chair, board of directors, or whoever. I wasn’t sure that it would do anything, but I wanted to do what I could to make sure that others in our situation didn’t have to go through it quite like we did.

The next day, Thursday, I received a phone call from a nice gentleman from “my favorite hospital.” It was in fact that Department Head for the Outpatient Imaging Department, where I had delivered my letter. He noted that he had been handed my note the day before on his way to a board meeting. He read through it on his way, and was so touched by the way I “eloquently”stated the facts that he read my letter at the board meeting. He went on to say that there was not a dry eye in the room, and they were very thankful for me to pointing out something they didn’t see.

“We’ve handled our hold and calls like this for years. We didn’t know the impact it was having on our patients.” He went on to say, “You are exactly right, in that we take pride in our patient care, and what we were doing there, was not showing our sincere care.” After a few more comments, he finished with “You can be assured that the board took you seriously. As of tomorrow, (Friday), there will be new policies in place. We have already identified rooms where our patients can take their calls, we will be informing doctors that if it’s not urgent, to just let their patients go home and call them there, AND we will not be letting our patients take calls in the waiting room.”

I started to cry. In just two days, my letter, my simple letter, has caused a change ….. that will help so many families from here on out. Whether it’s ultrasounds, CAT scans, mammograms, etc…. they won’t have to receive their good (or bad) news in the the public waiting room for all others to see.

Our hospital visit changed our lives drastically…..

but in that change…..

we changed the lives for so many others, too.

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