Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nobody cares what I say today . . .

But for the sake of good discipline, I'll do a post. It so happens that Mr. Obama and I both started new jobs today. (Also, the eruption of Mount St. Helen occurred on my birthday, so I'm just a portentous guy.) My new job is at an academic medical center, so even though I'm a researcher not involved in patient care, I had to go through the standard orientation. I now know how to handle hazardous chemicals, what to do if I get blood or excrement splashed in my face, and what to do if somebody abducts a baby. (The latter is a Code Pink, by the way.)

While much of this may not have been directly relevant to my work, as a medical sociologist I was certainly interested in observing it. I actually took a great deal away from the experience, but I'll just note here how much hospitals - at least big urban hospitals - have to be concerned about security issues. Health care workers have the highest probability of any profession of being assaulted on the job, and that includes police officers. Hospitals not only have a lot of mentally ill, delirious and/or demented people in them more or less by definition, but they also have a lot of people who are distraught about the fate of family members or themselves, and may get belligerent about it. People also like to go into hospitals to steal, not only babies, but narcotics and other stuff.

The buildings are wide open, anybody can walk in, and they have to serve everybody regardless of how the people behave or how unsavory they may appear. Hospitals can't do security screening, or make people sign in, or stop pretty much anybody from just walking up to the elevators and heading wherever. It wouldn't be practical, and it wouldn't be friendly.

So there is a great deal going on, largely behind the scenes, to provide security. This is just one indication of the complexity of these organizations and the substantial institutional challenges that they face. The experience of being a patient or the loved one of a patient is often alienating and infuriating, and I do aim to make it better, but at the same time, I ask you to cut them some slack -- it isn't easy. More on all this anon.


robin andrea said...

Congratulations on the new job. It sounds very challenging. I look forward to reading about the work you will be doing on a daily basis, and its relationship to the health care crisis at large.

C. Corax said...

Wow, Cervantes, congratulations! Like RA, I also look forward to reading about your experiences. Is this new job in addition to the two others you do, or in lieu of one of them?

Cervantes said...

No, this is a new full time job, essentially I'm flipping the arrangement so I'm full time at the university and consulting with the community organization.

kathy a. said...

more congratulations!

look forward to more.

kathy a. said...

i've spent more time around hospitals than a civilian should, and am pretty impressed with how most balance security and access. the most noticeable things are requiring badges for visitors; putting the new-baby ward in an inaccessible spot; requiring that visitors be buzzed in to places like the ER, ICU, etc.; and those little notices everywhere about confidentiality of patient info.

my aunt is spending her retirement wrangling the volunteer corps at her local hospital, so she has stories. the only time we really lost patience was after our mom's stoke, when my sister was finally allowed to visit and they led her to someone we didn't know. yep, they lost our mom. we file that under "shit happens," and are glad to report better relations with staff once mom was found.