When dealing with a major health issue, one thing you can expect to happen from time to time is difficulty in dealing with the medical bureaucracy. Hospitals, clinics, and physician offices are no different than any other large institutions in our society. In spite of the best intentions of all the dedicated individuals who work in healthcare, you can expect breakdowns and problems to occur. Sadly, this happens often in our modern lives, but when it happens while you are dealing with a serious illness the stress and frustration is often far worse.
When my husband was sick, we were lucky to experience excellent care and good customer service most of the time. However, there were a few times when we faced a real bureaucratic nightmare. One incident was particularly memorable; my husband was admitted to the hospital at a time when he could not eat. He received all of his nutrition through TPN which is an IV that is administered overnight while the patient sleeps. He had premixed bags of liquid nutrition that were delivered to our home from a special pharmacy. However, on this particular day he was admitted to the hospital around 3:00 pm. The pharmacy in the hospital would not make him a TPN prescription because it had not been ordered before 1:00 pm, which is required by hospital policy. The hospital also would not allow me to bring him a TPN bag from home, because that was also against hospital policy. We were told there was no possible way he could get TPN and therefore ANY nutrition for more than 24 hours.
The story does have a happy ending and this experience taught me some important tricks for dealing with these types of bureaucratic problems. First, we asked to speak with the charge nurse. She was sympathetic but insisted nothing could be done. It was infuriating but I took a deep breath and got my notebook out. I asked her to give me her complete name and job title and then asked the same for her direct manager as well as the pharmacist involved and the pharmacy manager. I calmly explained that I needed this information for the complaint I would be filing with Joint Commission, the agency that regulates hospitals. I also told her that I would be posting this story on the Facebook page for the hospital and Tweeting about it. I asked her if she could explain to me in simple words why my husband should be without nutrition for 24 hours so I could, word for word, write an accurate complaint. She then asked me to wait while she called the pharmacy again. After a few minutes, the nurse returned and told us that my husband's TPN would be delivered within an hour.
Here are some tips that I have learned when you run against a bureaucratic wall.
Most of the time you will encounter positive, helpful people in the medical field. Remember that most people want to be helpful and to give good service to customers. And on those occasions when they can't due to bureaucratic rules you will find that being calm, persistent and detailed can really help you get through it.