Sep 29, 2006

Giving feedback on my hospital experience

I decided to take a copy of my post, "Wake me when it's over...," including the comments from you lean healthcare folks, to the surgeon when I had my followup visit. I'm a lot bolder when writing about stuff than when talking to someone, but it seemed the right thing to do.

As it happened, I waited 90 minutes after my appointment time before I saw him. (The surgeon's office is associated with the hospital system and in the same building.) I read a whole issue of "People" magazine, while some talk show blathered about something distressing that happened to someone. The 90 minutes included time in the examining room, where the stack of magazines suggested that even here, patients needed something to alleviate the boredom.

I didn't bring up the discussion until after he'd checked my incision and drained some fluid that had accumulated. He did a nice job on the suturing, and I told him that before I brought up the anesthesia issue. (And the 90-minute wait.) He said something about anesthesiologists sometimes seeing different risk factors than the surgeon when they see the patient - yeah, yeah. I tried to be really clear that I recognized that it was the system, not him or any of the hospital personnel.

He told me he'd spent two hours that morning in a meeting about improving things. I didn't ask any more about that, just told him he could keep the copy of the blog post as a souvenir, and hoped he wasn't too irritated with me. Maybe he'll take it to the next two hour meeting.

Sep 25, 2006

One hotel's answer to wireless access woes

Your worst nightmare - urgent business, need to get online, your hotel's wireless access isn't working, and nobody knows what to do about it. Well, one Ontario hotel has the answer.

The Wilhelms were on vacation in Ontario last week, and stopped in Stratford for a little culture. There's a little hotel we like -- rooms above a restaurant, in fact. I had work with me, and getting online would have been nice, but not a matter of life or death. Fortunately.

I followed the directions, my laptop picked up a signal briefly and intermittently. I described my problem to the young lady at the desk, and she asked, "Are you using a Mac?" Always the first question - makes me glad I don't have one. Then it was, "Is your computer set up for wireless?" Yes. It works everywhere else. "Well, let me get Craig to help you. He's the guy who knows about the network." Craig was a bit busy - he's actally the bartender.

I didn't pursue the quest. But it made me think. Why not the bartender? When the guest gets exasperated, just ask him/her to bring their laptop to the bar, offer them a free beer or cup of coffee, and look at the machine together. Build some comraderie, lighten up, come to the conclusion that work just isn't worth it. Call the spouse and kids instead of e-mailing.

Would the world come to an end?

Sep 8, 2006

Wake me when it's over...not before

A few weeks ago, I noticed a lump about the size of half an orange on my shoulder, at the base of my neck. Did you ever see that movie where a second head suddently grows out of a guy's shoulder? That was what I was half expecting to see.

With that mental picture, I rushed to the doctor. He obviously wasn't sure what it was, but sent me to the surgeon. The surgeon is, if I recall his framed credentials correctly, a "top doc." It turned out to be a lipoma - basically a lump of fat showing up where it isn't supposed to be.

The surgeon said nothing would show up on a CAT scan and recommended removing it. Not only was I scared of having to argue with myself any more than I do now, but the lump was also pressing on other things and hurting me, so I said OK. I told him I was concerned about anesthesia, having twice woken up in the midst of a surgical procedure while the guy was still cutting. At that point, you can't do much more than grunt or moan slightly. Flinching is another option, but perhaps not a good idea.

The surgeon said the same thing had happened to him, as a patient. He said he wanted to "put me to sleep" anyway because he was going to have to deal with little blood and lymph vessels. So far, so good.

The process at the hospital wasn't great, but tolerable until the anesthesiologist showed up, after I'd been soaking in a Valium IV for about 20 minutes. He wanted me to sign off on a release about the anesthesia, telling me I'd be sedated. I asked what he meant, and he said "twilight," not "sleep." I told him that wasn't going to happen, and why, and that "the surgeon said so." He looked in my mouth, asked me once again about false teeth, and changed the paper, which I signed. Then I had to go through a quiz with all the subsequent checkers about why the paper was changed.

What if I hadn't had been assertive? On the second surgery, I raised the issue but complied when the nurse anesthetist told me, basically, that if it hurt, I should tell her. People are intimidated in the hospital, and not inclined to argue much, especially when they've been given nice drugs in advance.

The operation either would have gone on, with the surgeon basically covering up the mistake hoping you didn't wake up and yell, "Get my lawyer." Or the operation would have been interrupted while the surgeon and the anesthiologist duked it out.

This is a highly rated hospital that has already done a lot of improvement work - it has a 30-minute guarantee in the ER, for example. They sent me home with a patient survey. Now they have the situation reported both verbally and in writing. But I doubt there will even be a meeting, much less an advance anesthesia verification (with the surgeon) added. After all, I'm just a patient and no harm was done.

Sep 1, 2006

Manufacturing pioneer Gene Merchant mourned

From an e-mail from SME: The Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation lost a long time friend and supporter with the passing of M. Eugene Merchant, ScD on August 19, 2006. Dr. Merchant was a past president of SME, chaired the Foundation's Proposal Review Committee for over 20 years and in 1999 was named Honorary Director Emeritus of the Foundation.

Dr. Merchant's contribution to modern manufacturing is legendary. In the early 1940's he developed the basic theory of metal-cutting. His pioneering research made it easier for manufacturing engineers to determine the type of tooling needed to provide the optimum cut, how to regulate the amount of power needed to make a cut, and the effect on the metal's temperature. His theory has been used world wide and is still considered the best available for explaining and developing the machining process. His philosophy of computer-integrated manufacturing systems, developed in the 1950's, has become the standard operating practice for manufacturers all over the globe. To learn more about Dr. Merchant and his amazing career, read the article that appeared in Manufacturing Engineering Magazine, July 2004.

The SME Education Foundation has established an endowed scholarship in Dr. Merchant's memory. The scholarship will provide funding for future manufacturing engineers as well as serve as a lasting tribute to Dr. Merchant's pioneering research and discovery. Contributions to the M. Eugene Merchant Memorial Scholarship Fund can be made online or mailed to SME Education Foundation, One SME Drive, Box 930, Dearborn, MI 48121-0930.

Dr. Merchant is survived by his wife Helen, daughter Frances Sue Jacobson (Pontiac, IL), brother Robert Prescott Merchant (Lynchburg, VA), eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm