When you meet dozens of hospital staff over a matter of days it’s sometimes hard to tell who is who. During our recent hospital stay with Son #1 I quickly gave up trying to remember everyone’s names and tried to at least remember what their role was.
After a few days of sleep deprivation and stress I settled for simply trying to answer their questions accurately.
I did, however, notice some trends which might help you if you ever find yourself in hospital for an extended period of time with a sick child.
I sincerely hope you’ll never need this guide.
Stethoscope = medical degree
Especially in the ER, the easiest way to tell the difference between a doctor and a nurse is by looking at what’s hanging around their neck.
Doctors carry stethoscopes.
Nurses will approach you with blood pressure cuffs and thermometers.
I discovered, however, that this extends to other staff. Our physiotherapist carried a stethoscope (ok, she wasn’t technically a ‘doctor’ but the Bachelor of Physiotherapy generally lives within the Faculty of Medicine at universities…). Our Occupational Therapist did not.
Interns carry clipboards
Monash Children’s Hospital is a teaching hospital. Which means students / interns. They’re either sent in first with clipboards to take a medical history with prepared questions, or they shadow the senior staff. With clipboards to take notes.
Senior doctors are super calm
Pretty much all hospital doctors are pretty together people. They have to be or they wouldn’t have made it through the hesitant clipboard intern stage.
The more senior the doctor, the calmer they are.
If a doctor asks your child to try to walk in a straight line, watches them meander like a drunkard, trip and stumble on the third step, barely bats an eyelash and simply says ‘Well that’s not normal walking, is it?’. Yeah, that’s a senior doctor.
REALLY senior doctors have entourages
I knew Son #1’s condition was serious when the ER doctors told us they wanted a paediatrician to assess him before they made any decisions.
The paediatrician arrived with four other staff in tow. It was a fair crowd for our tiny cubicle. Her name badge said ‘Director of Paediatrics’. She wasn’t just any old paediatrician.
Over the next few days we were visited by members of the ‘neurology team’. I eventually figured out that the entourages generally consisted of REALLY senior doctor plus 1-2 regular doctors plus 2-3 interns.
Nurses have everything but stethoscopes
They don’t have stethoscopes but they have pretty much all the other equipment. IV machines, cannulas, tape, bandages, needles, blood pressure cuffs, medicines, pulse and blood oxygen testing thingys.
Then there’s the towels, fresh sheets, portable dvd players, ice chips and toy elephants made from blown up surgical gloves (to entertain the kids while they fix the really painful blood clot which formed in the IV thingy because junior thrashed around trying to avoid the OT and sat on his drip line).
You name it, they stock it.
OTs bring toys
I think. I’ve never been entirely sure.
Someone came in to ask what sorts of toys Son #1 liked. Then play doh and building shapes arrived, shortly followed by the occupational therapist who used the toys to play with Son #1 and assess his progress.
On the day we were discharged Son #1 had to pass a few hurdles. He had to prove he could take his medication orally (so they could confidently remove the IV tube). He had to be cleared by the neurology team and by the physiotherapist. He also had to see the pharmacist to assess what form his take-home medication should be in.
By this stage I was just desperate to go home and could barely hold a conversation without tearing up. I had no idea of the day of the week except that it was ‘Maybe go home at some time today’ day.
Medical staff had been in and out all morning. We’d been cleared by the neurology team, treated by a couple of different nurses (shift changes)
accosted by entertained by Mickey Mouse who was doing a PR round visiting the poor sick children.
Unfortunately for Disney, most of the kids had no idea who Mickey Mouse was and were more than a little freaked out by the strange enormous mouse who roamed the corridors and waved at them. Son #1 screamed at poor MM before he even made it through the door of our room. MM wisely retreated.
I knew we had the physio and pharmacist to go. But I was a little rattled by the whole big, scary mouse incident.
So when a nice, familiar looking lady came in and started asking ‘how is he going?’ I was a little unsure which aspect of Son #1’s condition I was expected to comment on.
She had a stethoscope so I was thinking, ‘doctor’?
‘Oh, he’s pretty good, his walking has improved a lot,’ I ventured. ‘The neurology team says he can go home if the physio is ok with it and then we just have to see the pharmacist.’
She smiled and kept asking questions. Eventually it dawned on me where I had seen her before – she was the physio.
Fortunately all the hospital staff were very used to stressed, distressed, sleep deprived and slightly desperate parents. She didn’t even point out my blooper. I liked her. She was nice.