Help--am I a problem patient??

Ok, I would really love to get some input on this, if anyone’s inclined. I was in the hospital overnight in June for a tonsillectomy. I had to go back twice, via the ER, because I had a bad reaction to the narcotic pain medications they gave me. I was taking liquid morphine, and liquid vicodin, and my entire system seemed to be shutting down!
The entire time, I could tell the ENT floor didn’t want me around, since there was nothing wrong with my throat. They were really busy and wouldn’t let me talk about my non-throat problems. I think if they had listened to me to begin with, I wouldn’t have had to go back. Then finally, on my third visit, I stayed on an internal medicine floor where a doctor got me switched to milder stuff that allowed me to recover normally at home. This doctor actually spent 5, as opposed to 2, minutes by my bedside listening to my symptoms and then relating them to my course of medications. (I know I sound cynical, but really, they were very rushed.) He took my problem seriously, and he fixed it, and didn’t make me feel like I was wasting his time.
Then last week I got this survey in the mail from the hospital, asking me to rate and comment on various aspects of my stay. Now, I am somewhat mad at the hospital. Before I went to the ER, the ENT resident on the phone told me he didn’t have a “magic wand” and couldn’t do anything for me. That was just rude and also wrong since I was later helped by the IM doctor. So along with my survey, I WOULD LIKE to attach a letter that politely explains what happened and how I am disappointed by this. Not to mention that the cost of one night in the hospital alone was over $5000, and it could have been avoided if the doctors had listened to me the morning after my operation.
I am just worried that if I include a letter, I could be pegged as a whiner, and in a few years, if I apply for residency there, they might remember! Who knows? I know it’s a big enough world that they probably WOULDN’T remember me–and my life as a patient is in no way connected to my upcoming life as a medical student, I would hope, but people are people, records are computerized, hospitals KEEP paperwork, and if anyone remembers, could I get burned? All I want to do is alert the hospital to what I experienced, in the hope that future patients MIGHT not have to go through this (yeah right, I know).
The other thing is that I’m just wondering–is this what being in the hospital is really like? Aren’t patients supposed to hear from their doctors what’s wrong with them and how it will be treated? This never happened during my first two stays. Or do docs just pop in and out, and decide whether the problem is important enough to warrant a diagnosis? I hope not! I hope this wasn’t a normal experience! Or am I super high maintenance as a patient? I am curious to know now, so that if so, I can squelch that behavior right away!
Thanks in advance to anyone who has a response. I am sorry to ramble on with my own personal woes. I’m just not sure if I should send a letter or not.
Also I’m not trying to criticize the decisions of the ENT people who saw me–only their manner of communicating and explaining those decisions to me. They didn’t even conceal the fact that they didn’t want me on their floor, but they also didn’t try to refer me anywhere except back to my own house, where things only got worse.

Welcome to life as a patient.
Yes, this is what many people face every day… Not everybody, but many people. they are ignored, brushed aside, second-guessed, etc. I think that every physician should have to be a patient or a spouse or parent or sibling of a patient… somehow involved in a patient’s direct care - before ever being allowed to be a physician…
I don’t think you’d need to worry about your name being recognized unless you filed a malpractice suit…we often become too concerned with politics to do what is right…

Is your name attached to the survey in any way? I’ve watched/helped my boyfriend do stats for several hospital surveys and they never have identifying information.
If you’re concerned about the letter coming back to haunt you, just don’t attach your name to that either.
Personally, I would send the letter no matter what the response. It’s my experience that, as long as you state your issues in a polite, constructive and coherent manner, people tend to be pretty responsive to these sorts of things. Hospitals could be different, because they aren’t customer-based in the same way as other organizations, I don’t really know. I do know that they won’t change anything if no one points out that there is a problem.

When I read your story, I was appalled by the way you were treated! I realize there is a nursing shortage, but I was wondering . . . where were your nurses? Nurses are supposed to advocate for their patients. Why did they not recognize that you were having an adverse effect to the medications and notify the doctor? It seems to me that your difficulties should have been addressed during your first night at the hospital.
Doesn’t your experience motivate you to be a different kind of doctor than those who were assigned to “care” for you? I know that my association with doctors have shaped the kind of doctor I want to become. Fortunately, I have had far more positive role models than negative ones. I’m sure that you will also find that positive role models are more the rule than the exception.
I realize that physicians are busy, but there seems to be no excuse for the ordeal you had to go through. I’d write the letter. That hospital needs to find out where it fails their patients. Otherwise, how will they ever improve?

Thanks everyone! This was my first experience in the hospital and I am sad to find out what sometimes goes on for patients. I am sure it can be far worse for patients who are less able to stick up for themselves, too.
I don’t know if I’ll write the letter or not. I just don’t know if people even read those things. The survey asks about the cleanliness of my room, but not about whether I felt I was cared for adequately.
I am glad this happened though, because it is something I will remember later when I am taking care of patients myself. The really annoying thing is that I was exceptionally polite towards everyone I encountered in the hospital. I feel like my doctors and nurses took advantage of the fact that I didn’t yell or demand more time from them. (At least not until my third stay, and even then I was respectful.) Most of my nurses were very helpful, but it was the doctors who provided me with so little explanation!

Many hospitals have a patient care advocate whose job it is to deal with situations like these. You could call and see if they have one and talk to him or her to decide what to do.

I was hospitalized 3 years ago for a PE, and I can tell you that hospitals have changed dramatically. You always saw the docs only on rounds, but now you usually only see the nurses at shift change and perhaps once more, if at all. That was my experience at Baylor in Texas, anyway. Speaking as a nurse who in the past has worked both inside and outside the hospital, I can tell you, hospital nursing SUCKS! Your load is too heavy, you’re stuck doing tons of routine, yet required paperwork, and especially if you’re an RN (which I am not) you have so much bureaucratic stuff to deal with in order to keep your job, that quality patient care often gets second priority. That, along with the nursing shortage, is more of a consequence of insurance and hospital administrations not leaving medicine to the professionals. Perhaps I am missing a giant piece of the puzzle, but after all of my years in nursing, and now being in medical school, I haven’t figured out why physicians don’t band together to gain back more control of the practice of medicine from administrators and bean counters.

I know that this was a long time ago, but I think you should write the letter, and just be clear about what happened to you. I don’t think you are a problem patient at all. Surgery is like the Tibetan Book of the Dead. First, they take away your food and water, then your jewelry, clothing and shoes, and your glasses, then they have all these loud machines so you can’t hear. Then they take away your friends and family, and then your consciousness. Then if something goes wrong, you have no power left to set things straight. Who wouldn’t have a problem with that?