After my gallbladder attack and during my surgery, we were customers of Broward General Medical Center, one of several hospitals in the Broward Health system in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The care and support we received there ranged from stellar (from one nurse and several members of the surgical team) to deplorable (from many members of the 6th floor nursing staff). With an eye toward giving future patients good information, here are some notes about our experience.
My surgery was performed by Dr. Ronald Moore, who specializes in the delightfully-named field of “Minimally Invasive Surgery.” In less than an hour, he performed a skillful operation that left me with only one minor incision. The fact that I’ve had only minor soreness is a testimony to his skill and the quality of his work.
I’m deeply, deeply indebted to Dr. Moore, his interns, and everyone who worked with me during the procedure. From the bottom of my heart: thank you.
The Surgical Staff
Throughout the surgery, the support staff — including Dr. Moore’s interns, the prep room staff, and the recovery room nurses — were all professional and personable.
At one point, when we were having difficulty getting clear information about my situation, one of Dr. Moore’s interns (whose first name, I believe, was Mike — but I was a bit distracted, and apologize for not being able to thank him more directly) took up our cause, asked good questions, spotted inconsistencies in my chart, and got us information we desperately needed. He didn’t have to do this; his job did not require it. HIs help meant a great deal to me.
Another nice moment: when I was being wheeled into the OR, one surgical nurse asked me how long Clyde and I had been together.
“Eighteen — no, almost nineteen years.”
She beamed at me. “Must be an anniversary coming up!”
“May 28th,” I said.
“It’s wonderful you’ve been together so long,” she replied. “Inspiring, even. Congratulations to both of you.”
Now that’s the kind of person you want to have around when circumstances force you to put your life in someone else’s hands. For that dear woman, and for all the surgical staff, I’m deeply grateful.
The Nursing Staff (6th Floor)
Kim Roberts, a day-shift nurse who worked with me all four days of my stay, was a godsend. Despite being assigned too many patients per shift, she did everything she could to provide professional, compassionate care. When we had questions, she did her best to get answers. When we called for help, she came as fast as she could. When she had to administer a procedure, she was gentle. When an intern, concerned about errors in my chart, pressed for details, she answered his questions honestly and directly. She’s a jewel.
She is also, I’m sorry to say, the exception to the rule.
Some of the problems on the 6th floor are strictly management’s fault. While we were there, for example, several nurses (unprompted by me) complained about being assigned too many patients at once. One went so far as to say, “You can’t give quality care when you’ve got this many patients on your roster.” That’s not exactly comforting to hear when you’re one of those patients.
Overworked and overwhelmed, some of the staff have just thrown up their hands. A good example is the nursing supervisor charged with who answering the assistance calls patients make via the HELP button on the bedside control. Because my room was just outside her desk, I could hear the signal beeping for her attention whenever I pressed the button. More than once, instead of answering my call, she simply switched the signal off, forcing me to call again.
When she did answer, she was by turns rude (“What?”), confrontational (“What now?”), or bizarre (“Your light’s on. Did you know?”). Whatever our request, her reply was always, “I’ll tell your nurse.” Forty-five minutes to an hour later, a nurse would come by — and be completely unaware of our situation. (Some nurses, in fact, upon hearing the seriousness of our complaint, would say, “Why didn’t you call for a nurse?”)
Worse, though, was one of the night nurses, whose presence on the floor is a threat to the health of any and all patients there. She was consistently unable to operate equipment, once even telling us that we would have to figure out how to silence an alarm on the IV pump because she couldn’t do it.
Once, she woke me in the middle of the night to give me medication that wasn’t mine. When I caught the mistake, she very rudely suggested I wasn’t “at myself” enough to know what I should be taking. When I adamantly refused the medication and said I wanted to speak with someone else, she checked her computer, chuckled, and said, “Oh, I’m looking at the wrong date!”
That kind of incompetence — especially when combined with chart errors indicating I had undergone procedures I hadn’t, and hadn’t undergone procedures I had — can easily harm or kill a patient, and Broward Health would be well advised to have this person retrained or removed from duty entirely.
When we arrived, I was placed in a room with an older gentleman who watched television at full volume, non-stop, around the clock. He favored “Sanford and Son” reruns and the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and maintained a constant dialogue with characters and people on the screen. In addition, having learned the call button was practically useless, he would holler for assistance until someone arrived.
In addition to his commentary (which he offered at least once every 15 minutes), the nurses’ station would frequently page staff members using a feedback-ridden intercom. Announcements were broadcast loudly in both the halls and the patients’ rooms — a puzzling practice, since every staff member wears a personal paging device that allows him or her to receive audio pages and phone calls directly.
In short: given this environment, it was impossible to get any sleep or rest.
In general, the 6th Floor nursing staff is very adept at ignoring patients and their families. During our stay, the desk was frequently unmanned; when staff were present, they tended to dismiss inquiries or express annoyance with our efforts to get their attention.
When Clyde described our situation to a friend who works as a nurse in the Ft. Lauderdale area, he gave us this advice: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Quit asking, and start demanding. You can’t be polite.”
Based on that advice, Clyde became very adamant and very vocal about my situation, going so far as to leave a message with the head of Customer Service indicating that, if things did not improve, he was having me transferred to another hospital.
After we began being more vocal, we saw quick results. Clyde insisted I be moved to a private, quiet room; shortly after, the staff complied. After a “Patient Advocate” appeared in response to Clyde’s customer service call, we started getting information, procedures, and an appointment for surgery.
In short: in our experience, in order to get decent care, you’re going to have to fight for it.
You know me: my iPhone is always close at hand — and when staff were dismissing us and nurses weren’t responding to calls for help, I looked up Broward Health’s Twitter account and started pinging them with messages about my experience.
Like a lot of big companies, Broward Health is using social media — but doesn’t have a clue about how social media can and should be used. So, while there is a Twitter account out there, it’s used strictly for pushing out links to recipes, general health tips, and hospital-sponsored community events. There’s no conversation going on — and, based on my experience, no one is monitoring Twitter for Direct Messages or mentions.
Or … perhaps they are. After I posted a handful of tweets about problems I experienced, the hospital’s free wireless internet service banned access to MadeByMark.com. So now, if anyone in Broward Health tries to access my web site, they see a message explaining the site has been blocked because it is “Intolerant.” (I don’t usually think of myself as intolerant … but, yeah, when it comes to incompetence that threatens my health and life, I suppose I am pretty intolerant of that.)
So I guess I should say the hospital did respond to my tweets about bad customer service … by ignoring my messages, barring access to my website, and trying to shut me up.
A note to the Broward Health communications team: that’s not exactly what social media’s all about.
That’s All Folks
And with that … i’m done. I don’t want this site to become a 24×7 broadcast about my surgery, but I did want to explain what’s been happening and share our experience in the event it can be useful for those who, by plan or by accident, find themselves at Broward General.
Trust the doctors, be demanding with the staff, and watch every administration of medicine and every entry in your chart like a hawk … and you’ll be fine.