Monday, 10 September 2012

Filling the leaky bucket...

Like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it, filling up the general ward can be a slow process.  The surgeries we do are often "simple" (you try doing them!), but potentially life-changing, and have quick recovery periods.  This means that quite often, patients are discharged the day after surgery.  Due to a serious nursing shortage on the ship, we only have 10 out of 20 general beds "open" for admissions.  These beds have been slow to fill, as our general surgeon at the moment only does two surgeries a day. 
This is "my" ward.  And for a couple of days, I was letting myself get discouraged, seeing only how slow we are to fill beds and how quickly they empty, leaving us with a half-full ward.  What I wasn't seeing was the opportunities.  Silly me.  There are so many, many opportunities.
First of all, we have room for the overflow from MaxFacs surgeries, where they have twice as many surgeons as normal.  The potential for variety, after all, was a large part of what attracted me to the role of General Team leader.  And sure enough, today we admitted two patients from MaxFacs.
Secondly, we have room for "hotel" patients.  "Hotel patients" may be a unique term, I'm not sure.  They are patients that have no where to go in the city where we currently are docked, and that for reasons specific to the patient, need to stay nearby.  Sometimes its pre surgery and sometimes it's post surgery when they are well enough to be out of the hospital but we want them to return for post-op checks or physiotherapy.  There are varied reasons to term a patient "hotel" but the main point is, they are not officially an admitted patient, and they are healthy enough to be at home, but we are keeping them on the ship.  We have a hope center in town, which is set up exactly for these patients, but is currently in the final stages of set-up.  And so we have had a couple of hotel patients, one of which has been hanging out on the general ward. 
He's one of our Ortho kids, and he's beautiful.  His story is long and complicated, and seems to change with every retelling (as most health care stories do... ask any nurse!).  He speaks no english and very little french, but already he's learning a bit, the little parrot!!!  He loves to play and the nurses find excuses to spend time with him.  I love it!  It's just so good to hear the squealing giggles burst out from the corner where his bed is!  To see the joy on his face, knowing the hard life he's come through.  And realizing that we can have joy in any circumstance, he's living proof.
The third opportunity that I now see... is the potential for more surgeries.   We have a bunch of kids arriving from Sierra Leone tomorrow to have plates removed from their now straight (hopefully) legs.  If we can do their surgeries through the next couple of weeks, that will free up the schedule for the more complicated Ortho surgeries.
And so I'm thankful.  Thankful for this ward that is slow to fill, and yet still it is filling up.  Thankful for the opportunities it presents, and the possibilities I haven't yet become aware of. 

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