The Chaos of Medicine: Family

Saturday, January 14, 2012


October 11th, 2011
After school, I head straight to the nursing home. I had been called while at school: did I mind to pick up a short shift in a few hours? Of course, I couldn't say no. I never say no to extra shifts because I actually enjoy my job (and I don't have to do my homework for a few more hours). Also, it was an afternoon shift. I like the afternoons best as it is the only time of the day there is not much to do, which means you have time to play games and have conversations with the people you have to disappoint too often. "Sorry, no time, I will come to you ASAP." Today, I have even more time than usual. One patient has to go to the dentist to have her dentures fitted and the family specifically requested for a staff member to be present. Would I mind going with her?

Thirty minutes later, the patient's daughter arrives. She is also coming with us. I wonder why she requested a staff member to come along. The transport is completely arranged and there was nothing specific I needed to do. But by then, I had already learned that requests from family make sense most of the time. I introduce myself to the daughter and we prepare to leave.

We sit in the taxi. The daughter starts talking with me. Do I work there full-time? I tell her I still go to school and hope to become a doctor. She is enthusiastic about this. I seem to enjoy my work very much. I confirm this and we discuss health care in general. She tells me about her son, who is both mentally and physically impaired. From her way of speaking I know she loves her son very dearly, but she is still struggling with lost dreams. Dreams of her son becoming independent and being healthy and achieving whatever he wants. She wants her feelings to be heard and acknowlegded.

When we return to the nursing home one hour later, I know why I had to come along to the dentist. Although it seemed like I didn't do anything - technically I was completely unnecessary - I think I know why I had to come. In the 90 minutes we were gone we, as in the daughter and I, had an ongoing conversation. The patient with dementia enjoyed our companion but could not actually take part as her dementia had progressed too far. The daughter was very uncomfortable with this and just really needed to talk to someome.  Sometimes, matters are more complicated than they seem. Especially when dealing with patients of their families, things are rarely straightforward. They don't teach you that in any school. Still, it is important. The family probably won't remember my name, or if I knew everything without asking for help, but the impressions of that day last a long time.

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