Reporting to Work in a Hospital Setting

Many of us report to work in a hospital setting every day. We are capable of navigating the complex hallways, tunnels, walkways and towering levels in the largest of hospital environments with ease. Throughout our careers, we have learned to speak the language of the professionals we encounter in the hospital. In many ways, the hospitals we work in become our second homes.

More often than not, it seems we spend more time there than we do with our family and friends. At times we have even had to visit those family and friends as patients when they have been hospitalized. When this happens, all our knowledge, skill and experience can go flying out the window because now emotion has been brought into the equation.

Having to switch roles from staff member to family member can be a difficult transition. It can be more complicated if the loved one you are visiting is hospitalized in the institution where you work. It is one thing to ask questions of the healthcare professionals providing care for your loved one; it is a totally different dynamic to ask the same question of coworkers.

The benefit of knowing the providers tending to your loved one can help you in decision making. If you have a good relationship with someone caring for an individual you love, it help you get better information. This is probably true as long as the information you are requesting does not question the competencies of the professionals rendering care. If you start to question the care being provided to your loved one the ebb and flow of information can dry up and professional coworker relationships can be damaged.

Over the years, I have had several family members receive outpatient care as well as by hospitalized in the same institution I have worked. This has given me experience in maneuvering these choppy waters.

  1. Identify yourself as the appropriate decision maker and advocate for your loved one when they cannot speak for themselves due to fear or medical condition. Ensure that the healthcare facility has the necessary advance directives in the medical record to honor your role.
  2. Educate yourself regarding the medical condition of your loved one including symptoms, treatments and outcomes. Just because you work in a hospital does not mean you know everything there is to know about your loved one’s medical situation. Humility is an ally as you try to guide the care of your loved one.
  3. Communication between you and the healthcare professionals is critical and always better when done face to face. This includes conversations with any healthcare providers including the physicians. To the best of your ability, arrange your visits around physician rounding schedules to facilitate good communication. Keep a note pad in the room so documentation of who, what, when someone was in the room providing care for your loved one.
  4. Respect the role of those providing care for your love. You are not a respiratory or physical therapist so listen to the knowledge they have to give you. Learning more from those who do what they do can only give you more information to make informed decisions.
  5. Attitude is all important when dealing with those caring for your loved one. Yes, you are stressed and in an emotionally vulnerable situation but keep your attitude pleasant, professional, diplomatic, engaging and respectful.
  6. Have faith in your confidence in the ability to understand what you don’t know along with what you do know. You are educated in one area of healthcare, familiar with others and capable of learning. This confidence never has to be cocky, arrogant or condescending.
  7. There is no replacement for instinct. Trust yours when observing your family member. You know them and their patterns, routines and base lines. This information can help you be alert to subtle changes those who don’t know the patient might miss.
  8. Patience is required in our daily lives and a double dose benefits everyone when it comes to healthcare. You are on the other side of the process and understand your loved one is not the only patient.
  9. Don’t be a hospital visitor who is incapable of helping your loved one. You can pour your loved one a glass of water, help navigate the television, fluff a pillow and assist with the meal tray. You do not need to call for a nurse or assistance for everything your loved one may need.
  10. Also don’t become another patient for the staff to care for while you are a visitor. Bring your own medications, food, drink or reading material. The staff is there to care for your loved one not you.

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