“Room 143 Needs a Bedpan”

“Room 143 Needs a Bedpan!”

A tirade by a nurse and a human being.

Walking down a corridor in a recent visit to the hospital, I was lulled out of my thoughts by the abrasive sound of a hospital employee yelling out “Hey! Room 143 needs a bed pan. Can you take care of it?”

Dressed in institutional blue with her name and the status of ‘Registered Nurse’ printed on a plastic pin, she had a tired body and bitter eyes.

Further on, another employee, hair dyed a bright blonde and nails turquoise was speaking in a voice that all could hear “Hi Hon! Here’s your medicine. Then we need to move you into the chair, ok?” Evidently the blonde had not been taught that speaking louder will not cause a non-English speaker to suddenly understand. There are times when I am seriously disturbed by the attitudes and platitudes of those who work in my chosen profession of nursing, and healthcare in general.

When did we decide it was ok to strip men, women, and children of the dignity of identity and make them room numbers? When did it happen that the renowned professor of neuroscience became room 143 and the Mexican immigrant in room 144 became “Hon”, a term reserved for those with whom we have a relationship?

When we strip people of their identity it is easier to treat them as widgets on an assembly line that involve chores but no human interaction. We have turned what we affectionately call our “healthcare system” into many people’s worst nightmare, only they don’t get to wake up and say “It was only a bad dream!”.

Worse, there are those who feel that a complaint will surely affect those we love who are in room 143, and bring about a pay-back of sorts that includes inadequate care and bad behavior.

I’m not asking that hospitals and clinics be resorts or day spas. I’m asking that they address the fundamentals of human dignity and realize that referring to people as room numbers fails to deliver.

I wish I had an answer to my rant. I do believe that once we figure out how to put human dignity back into the healthcare equation we will have a better foundation by which to address the healthcare crisis.

Perhaps putting human dignity in the formula starts with making healthcare less about healthcare executives (who I guarantee will one day be “Room 143”) and making it more about the patients.

10 thoughts on ““Room 143 Needs a Bedpan”

  1. Medication and pain are no excuse for the health care workers to be rude with anyone. I have a too much experience with hospital stays and I have nothing good to say. Nurses seem to think far too much of themselves nowadays and doctors always have.


  2. I will never forget how George, a 20 year old health care assistant in our local hospital, came back on duty after a day John had been desperately poorly, looked at my husband with such love and compassion and said with joy and relief: “You are so much better today!”

    Then there was Violetta, the fiery nurse from Lithuania who would stroke his head and say, when I had to leave; “I’ll look after you John!” She always came early and went round catching up on those she had cared for on her last shift.

    And John, the big Nigerian nurse who always had a smile and never got flustered.

    This all happened in a huge ward of 20 beds each containing a very ill patient. It wasn’t perfect, but it was warm-hearted most of the time.


  3. Oh so true Ruth Anne! We were told by a counselor once these three things:
    Slow Down
    Warm your tone
    Watch your intent
    Pretty good mantras for healthcare!


  4. Very true. We have the exact same problem in the U.K at the moment. People are treated as numbers rather than human beings and the standards of healthcare are abysmal in some areas.


  5. As you know we’ve had lots of closeup experience in hospital in the past year, and some of what you describe. However, we have also seen the other side. Our young Ortho-surgeon who dealt with your Dad’s infection was brand new to the practice and very caring and compassionate. We love him. And I was told that when Dad had such a bad turn after the surgery and they had to move him to the almost-ICU (don’t remember what they called it) a couple of the nurses were in tears. When he had to go in again, to yet a different ward, Carol overheard one nurse telling another that Santa Claus had just come in! So there are individuals who treat their patients with dignity and caring. I have to agree about the health care system in general, specifically the insurance system. Thanks for being such a caring person, Marilyn.


  6. Not to mention, is it entirely necessary for the WHOLE WORLD to know that the the renowned professor of neuroscience in room 143 needs a bedpan? I am always amazed at the extraneous noise in hospitals — where people really are trying to recover. And employes often fail to realize how their voices carry in those hard-surfaced halls. Sigh.


  7. Excellent post! I will say, though, that I’d rather be referred to as a room number than some of the things I’m sure health care “professionals” have called me when I am in hospital. lol I don’t try to make a fuss, but medication and pain probably make me hard to deal with.


    1. Excellent point which makes me even more troubled! Medication and pain make all of us hard to deal with….and the reality is that none of us go to hospitals or clinics for fun, we go because we have to. I wonder when “etiquette” courses will start to be required in formal curriculum’s of healthcare professionals. And I get that we all get tired, and fall. It’s just that the bad behavior often feels so rampant.
      I am so glad you read and commented. Thanks.


      1. Etiquette classes are not a bad idea. The point of having and cultivating good manners is being able to treat everyone around you respectfully, no matter how hard they are to deal with. In fact the harder they are to deal with, and the ruder they are to you, the better your manners should be in contrast.


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