An attempt to protect privacy devolves into a scene

Maintaining patient privacy is always an issue in hospitals.  In emergency rooms, it may become even more challenging.

Last week, my mother was taken by ambulance to an emergency room. To protect her privacy, I won’t say why other than she definitely needed emergency medical care and was in danger of not one, but two, types of very serious problems.  Stabilizing her on both fronts was essential if she was to live.

The emergency room was crowded.  Overcrowded, actually, as patients were on gurneys in the hall because all of the individual cubicles/rooms were occupied.

And so my mother wound up in a cubicle with only a privacy screen separating her from another patient.

The cubicle was crowded as both my mother and the other patient had concerned family members there as well as ER staff running in and out caring for both patients.

But it was when a nurse tried to preserve some semblance of privacy that all holy heck broke loose.

A relative of the other patient in the cubicle was sitting on a chair, but the chair was situated so that he could see everything going on in my mother’s side of the cubicle. When the nurse saw that as she looked up from tending to my mother, she told him that he needed to move so that he was only on the other side of the screen.

Screaming ensued.  Accusations of the nurse being nasty or hostile, calls for the hospital administrator were made loudly, and the situation escalated. Hospital security was called, and chaos surrounded the staff’s efforts to care for my mother.  As they tried to tend to her and talk to me, it had to be hard for them to concentrate on what they were doing. It was certainly hard for me to hear what they were saying over the angry shouts of the other patient and her family member.

The yelling in the cubicle went on for quite a while until the other patient was moved elsewhere to get her away from the nurse she was offended by.  Even then, the yelling and nastiness continued outside the cubicle. I’ll spare you the details.

Maybe if the nurse had worded her request a bit differently to the other patient’s family member to explain the privacy issue, this wouldn’t have happened, but maybe it would have anyway under such tense circumstances.  But who would have thought that a simple direction, intended to protect patient privacy, would have led to such a furor.

I just hope that the nurse in question continues to look out for patient privacy despite the unpleasantness the other day and kudos to her for trying to protect her patients’ privacy  in the midst of difficult conditions.

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