Removing the Mask:
Local nurses, doctors and
health-care workers speak out
Photo by HealthcarePhotos.com
The following testimonials were submitted to The Sedona Observer by area health-care workers. When we put our initial call for local health-care horror stories, we never expected to receive them from nurses and practitioners.
Most workers requested that they remain anonymous for fear of termination or retribution from their employers. The names that appear are those who insisted on using their real identities. The nurses who wrote stories for the Condition: Critical section below asked to use pen names so they would not receive hospital backlash that, according to one nurse, was the "administration m.o."
The Sedona Observer presents these statements as allegations and not as the editorial opinion of this newspaper. Therefore, we have also eliminated the names of any organizations or institutions from the employee testimonials. The stories also remain unedited except for style, grammar, case and punctuation.
We are presenting these testimonials to give health-care workers a voice about their workplace challenges. We welcome any opposing views so we can highlight all sides of the issue for our readers.
Here now are the reports in their own frightening words.
One Doctor's Diagnosis:
"It's a Travesty"
This is not what I had in mind when I entered medical school - R.F, M.D. - Sedona
I am a local physician who formerly served as a member of the medical staff of an area hospital. I left because I was greatly concerned about two main issues: the loss of Joint Commission on the Accreditation of American Hospitals Organization accreditation and the unnecessarily excessive fees being charged to patients.
Since the hospital offers the only such health-care facilities in the area without any competition, it inflates charges in excess of Medicare and other insurance costs. It unnecessarily pads the cost of tests, surgical procedures and other services.
The result is that patients pay more for these procedures in northern Arizona because, to use an expression, it’s the only game in town. While a Phoenix hospital charges approximately $2,000 to deliver a baby, it will cost closer to $5,000 in northern Arizona for the same delivery.
Another thing many people may not realize is that we’re talking about a tax-exempt, community health-care organization. Therefore, its governing board of directors should be selected by local residents versus an administration with dual business relationships that could pose a “conflict of interest.”
It’s a cutthroat business because the hospital wants to maintain control of regional health care for the sake of sheer profit. So it exercises an iron-clad control on what doctors can come to the area while dictating their practices so they control the competition and therefore the profits. We have had patients waiting months to be scheduled for treatment due to the doctor shortage.
The operation is making enormous profit off both uninsured and insured patients. Its patients are paying three times more for care due to the organization’s fees and policies. I have seen them put liens on families and send collection agencies after seniors on fixed incomes. It’s a travesty.
This is not what I had in mind when I entered medical school. I thought I would be able to practice by the medical oath I took. That is no longer so for many physicians. If you don’t comply with the old boy network, you’re as good as dead – you’re out.
But we’re dealing with human lives here, and such behavior is sanctimonious. This is not the essence of what health care should be. We have industrialized and corporatized our health care along with our food. And it’s killing us.
The saving grace is that there are so many dedicated, skilled physicians and nurses who serve on the medical staff. They are mostly hog-tied, but they’re all doing the best they can under a truly rotten and corrupt health-care system."
Health-care worker testimonials
“If I get sick, take me anywhere else quick.” – H.B., hospital patient care technician (PCT), Cottonwood
“If I had an emergency and needed treatment at an area hospital, I’d have serious reservations about being treated at one of these facilities because of the lack of proper patient care. I know because I work at one. I’d tell the ambulance: ‘Make sure I get to Phoenix fast!’ If I get sick, take me anywhere else quick."
“SiCKO is for real.” – G.H., RN, Flagstaff
“I’ve worked at a lot of hospitals across the country for many years. What I see is a downward spiral in health care. I used to love my job but not so much anymore since they have us handling twice as many patients now.
I feel sorry for the sick patients. They’re paying huge gobs of money for substandard care, even with expensive insurance plans. I’ve worked at hospitals in large cities where I saw situations of patients being dumped out on the street. I’ve also seen unnecessary deaths because a patient’s meds got mixed up.
SiCKO is for real. The hospitals are all about money; don’t let ‘em fool you with their glitzy community relations. The problem is that health care is a business and no longer about health. Once money enters the equation, health care will always be sick and in need of an emergency room.”
Practitioners lack health care - Sarah and Sig Hauer, Sedona
“We are not writing about a specific horror story regarding health insurance companies. We are writing from the perspective of alternative health-care practitioners who are offering an option to what we see as a health-care crisis in the United States.
In June 2006 our practice added a highly affordable option in our growing busy practice. In response to the escalating and outrageous costs in health insurance, we began a "Community Acupuncture Clinic" with payment based on a sliding scale. This clinic is offered two days a week.
As soon as we launched this clinic, we felt empowered and relieved to offer one option for those who want to be treated with Traditional Chinese Medicine.
We have patients who are low income, no income and fixed income. Thanks to this program, they are experiencing greater quality of life, pain reduction and/or resolution, plus overall improvement of their health. The psychological and emotional support they receive helps them focus on getting healthy and staying healthy as well.
We have heard the horror stories. We keep hearing them. People sometimes come to see
us as a last resort and are relieved to tears that someone takes the time to truly care for them.
Our health-care system in the United States has become big business. It didn't happen overnight. One way we have responded is to do what we can, even if on a small scale to offer help to those who need it and who cannot afford it without the sliding scale. It means we work harder and we make less money.
When Michael Moore asked the question in SiCKO 'Who are we?,' that said it all. When a society has lost the ability to take care of its own people, it is a sad day. And “We the People” at Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine are not buying it. Our practice is about helping people.
Oh, and by the way, we are two of the 50 million without health insurance as well.”
Sarah and Sig Hauer
Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
65 Coffee Pot Drive, Suite D
Sedona, AZ 86336
Reprimanded by hospital for charting an error – D.L., RN, Sedona
"I have been a health-care professional for 22 years and have seen many injustices in the system. One in particular affected me very strongly.
A number of years ago, I was sent by the health-care agency to an assignment on a pediatric floor. When I arrived, I assessed a young 6-year-old boy. He was such a sweet little boy, with flaming red hair and a deep sadness. His parents had hit black ice and they had all been in an auto accident. Both of his parents were killed and he was on my floor - an orphan. He had an aunt and an uncle who were assuming responsibility for him and I could tell they did not want the job.
He had suffered blunt trauma to his abdomen, which required him to have a temporary colostomy bag. It was my job to assess him and monitor him closely. I was also assigned to teach him how to deal with his colostomy.
Upon my initial assessment, I noticed that his oxygen was running at twice the safe range. He had just had respiratory therapy and they failed to turn the oxygen levels down. I immediately adjusted it to the ordered rate and, at the end of my shift, charted in my nurse’s notes very objectively that I had discovered the error with the oxygen, that the patient did not appear to have sustained any negative effects and that the adjustment had been made.
I was called to the carpet by several supervisors at that hospital for noting the error in the charting. I asked them if they were telling me to chart by omission, which means to exclude vital data that could help a child later if he sustained long-term effects from the error. That was my first encounter with lying in patient charting to protect the hospital from liability.
Unfortunately, I was a temporary nurse on a temporary assignment in a system that cares more about money than they do about patients. This is why I chose to run my own agency so that I can remain a patient advocate and patient-focused health-care provider. These nightmares happen all the time in the health-care industry.
I also have seen many heroes who are working under stress, a situation that the average layman could never understand. Hospitals are often short-staffed and great demands are made upon the people who render care. My belief is that mistakes will happen, but it is our responsibility to own them and to remedy these mistakes for the sake of our patients."
Too many patients, not enough staff – S.A, RN, Cottonwood
“Our primary concern is the lack of sufficient nursing aid staff and that the hospital administration requires nurses to take on more patients than they can safely provide care for.
On average we take on six patients per nurse. This number is too high, especially since hospitalized patients are more acutely ill than ever before. That’s because hospitals are paid by diagnosis and not on the number of nights a patient is there, so it’s in their economic interest to move patients out quicker.
Unfortunately, there’s no law in Arizona regarding the number of patients a nurse can handle on the medical/surgical floor. But it’s accepted in the industry that, based on recent studies, four patients should be the limit per nurse. This is because of the higher acuity of patients in hospitals today.
This means that most hospitalized patients are there due to a more serious condition. And that’s due to increased economic pressure to get patients out more quickly. So patients are discharged sooner after shorter stays than they were years ago, and the ones that do remain really need greater care.
Insufficient support staff for nurses also remains a serious problem. This means that nurses have to perform primary care (providing food and toilet for patients) due to the lack of nursing assistants who would normally perform this function while nurses focused on more vital aspects of care. The lack of nursing aid staff detracts from nurses being able to properly administer medications, check lab values and other critical functions that affect the patient’s care.
Detrimental incidents have occurred due to this because nurses are too busy to provide the level of care they normally would. Consequences include an increase in medication errors, orders not being carried out in a timely manner and antibiotics and other meds not being administered properly due to nurses doing paperwork or tending to too many other patients."
"I have noticed that persons without insurance
tend to get booted out of the hospital quicker
than those with insurance."
"The Arizona Dept. of Health requires licensed hospitals to have an acuity system in place – a tool that determines the amount of resources patients need for their care. But it doesn’t measure the level of nursing time required by a patient. The conflict is that the administration has accounting goals and wants an acuity system to let a nurse take on six patients instead of an accounting system that mandates a nurse give more time and care to a patient.
The acuity tools they have don’t properly measure the amount of nursing time a patient needs; it says a nurse can take on more patients. The nurse at the bedside is the one who determines the amount of recourse necessary to care for the patient but she has no say how many patients she can effectively care for.
A "bullying" hospital administration and no meal breaks
There’s a bullying kind of culture at the hospital because they’re the only game in the area and nurses have to suck it up if they want employment. Nurses cower to this administration and are very intimidated by them.
You catch a meal when you can. There’s no relief for lunch or a meal break, nor any process for being relieved to leave the floor. There’s absolutely no formal meal schedule in the course of a 12-hour shift. If you’re full-time and get called off due to patient census for your scheduled shift, you’re not always guaranteed a full work week of 36 hours. If you want to be paid for that time, you have to use your vacation time.
Earnings are based on years of experience. There’s an inclination to get rid of older nurses making twice as much as new grads. The patient census cycles; it tends to go down in summer but is higher during flu and respiratory ailment season.
I am called off a couple of times each month, totaling about 24 hours a month. The pay for that comes out of our vacation time, which is easily used up in the course of a year. So we often don’t get vacation because we’ve already used up the hours.
Lack of proper accreditation
Many nurses and doctors were upset when the hospital discontinued its Joint Commission on the Accreditation of American Hospitals Organization (JAACO) a couple of years ago. That’s very important to a hospital’s reputation and the quality of patient care. But our administration made the decision to no longer seek it due to the cost factors necessary to remain in compliance.
Instead they chose to be licensed by the state health department. Everyone except maybe the general public knows those standards are much lower than JACCO. And they fooled the public by putting out a blitzkrieg of press release stating the contrary so no one would suspect what was going on.
It’s all about money and yet they have plenty of it. Just ask any patient without health insurance who’s visited the emergency room or had surgery and they can tell you how astronomical the bills are."
"The hospital makes its money on the bed rate
– no different than a hotel.
It’s all a big business."
"There have been some incidents at the hospital that led me to decide not to practice nursing there anymore because it’s too unsafe. I feel responsible for the care of patients who I can’t even get to see. My time was consumed with way too many patients. I can’t abandon one patient for another or cut back on the level of care to accommodate a new one. It’s my licensing at stake.
A seasoned nurse who hired me mentioned that the hospital doesn’t attract and retain nursing directors for the individual nursing units because directors are put in a position where they are utterly powerless to direct nursing care. Plus there’s the constant pressure to take on more patients.
I have made loving, quality friends at the hospital and there are so many wonderful people there. I hate to see decent people treated this way. I worked on the national health-care campaign with the Clinton administration to show how the for-profit system is impacting patient care. It is forcing nurses to give inferior care which in turn is creating very poor morale – and this is a place where people come to get well!"
What’s really going on in hospitals – P.W., X-ray technician, Flagstaff
"If people knew what was really going on in their local hospital, they’d be shocked. But the administration constantly paints a real rosy picture of itself in all the newspapers so everyone thinks things are up to par. They should only know the excessive greed that drives the administration, which couldn’t care less about the patients. It’s all about making a buck. Since this is a rural hospital, it can bill higher rates because it is the only provider.
The hospital administration receives extraordinary bonus payouts in addition to high salaries. I saw a source document from a doctor that showed the CEO receiving a seven-figure bonus while others got six-figure bonuses. This money represents pure hospital profits and revenues over expenses. How can they can be a nonprofit status if they’re making so much profit?
The profit margins are enormous enough to pay handsome bonuses but not to hire enough staff for proper patient care – all under the convenient nonprofit umbrella. They’re laughing all the way to the bank at the expense of an overwhelmed nursing staff, which translates to inferior patient care.
And they’re still cutting corners and shortening the stays of patients without insurance, all so the guys at the top can make out like bandits. And they try to hire nursing grads over experienced nurses so they can pay lower wages.”
An American epidemic – A. W., radiology technician, Clarkdale
“The place I work at calls itself a nonprofit but it is one of the greediest operations I’ve ever worked for. What’s worse is that there’s a lot of patient neglect that the public doesn’t realize. The care really isn’t up to standard because they refuse to hire enough staff. I think it’s so that the executives can make the big bucks and bonuses; we see serious mistakes all the time that you wouldn’t believe.
But I don’t think this is just a problem unique to the Verde Valley; it’s an American epidemic of greed that’s destroying us. The problem with my hospital isn’t the people – they are all great, hard-working and caring. It’s the administration that’s the problem. And it’s the same with our government: it’s the administration that’s the problem. Americans deserve better, and the Verde Valley deserves better.”
“One of the worst job experiences I've ever had!” – S.D., patient care technician, Cottonwood
“Working at a local hospital was a horrible experience. When I was interviewed on the unit for the position, the woman who conducted the interview promised I would be able to work three 12-hour shifts in a row.
However, unbeknownst to me, that department, called "Senior Life Styles" (a psych unit for seniors) was and had been in turmoil for some time. During the initial training portion of my employment, another newly hired woman gave me a heads-up. Apparently, Senior Life Styles had been through (I think) THREE different heads of department in the previous year. One of them, a man, was dismissed for sexual harassment.
When you're hired at the hospital, you have to be fingerprinted and you have to pass a urinalysis test. No problem. But I misunderstood the very unpleasant woman in human resources who was handling my paperwork [how do such personalities make it into such people-oriented jobs where they don’t belong?].
I went to the lab for the urinalysis at the wrong time and she basically accused me of being uncooperative. I was then taken to a small, dark, dimly-lit office where she and her supervisor grilled me and again, accusing me of not being a team player.
I said I would be happy to re-take the urinalysis but, apparently I had been labeled already. I felt like I was starting my new job with a big "A" on my forehead. I wondered whether these human resources reps would communicate their beliefs to the staff on the unit. To say I was a tad paranoid about walking onto the unit the first day is an understatement, and I really needed this job!
Dirty laundry and people wandering the halls...
One of the most difficult issues was coming into work at 7 a.m. to find that the night shift had done almost nothing. There might be dirty laundry (the unit had its own washer and dryer); people wandering the hall still in their PJs, and often many patients were still sleeping when we arrived.
Since breakfast arrived around 8 a.m., it was up to the day crew to get things organized - and quickly. The day crew also handled any doctors who came to visit patients, any other departments who came to take one of the patients for tests, and of course, any family members or friends who were there to visit.
Also, virtually all of the new admits and discharges were handled during the day. Admitting a new patient was time-consuming because a complete inventory of his or her belongings had to be taken. Some items were removed and locked up. Some of the patients were not at all happy about being admitted to a psych unit!
The day crew had to make sure everyone got a shower at least every other day (God forbid the night crew got a patient up, showered and dressed by 7 a.m.!) and we had to handle any attempts of violence, which were not uncommon, especially among the Alzheimer's patients and at any given time, about 50 percent of the population of this 12-bed unit were Alzheimer's patients.
A ship without a captain
If this unit had someone leading it, I'd like to believe this imbalance in responsibilities would have been corrected. As it was, there was no "captain" steering the ship and the hospital seemed to drag its feet about finding a replacement.
The other problem was that the hospital had a business relationship with the company that essentially created Senior Life Style psych units. This company was based in Atlanta and, periodically, a couple of their people would fly in and see how we were doing. They half-managed the unit but, again, what we really needed was a full-time head of the unit. Rumor had it that because of the unit's negative history, no one in the hospital wanted to apply for the position.
Also, there were people from the hospital who would also come by periodically and check on us. So, it was like having two sets of part time managers - who often didn't communicate with each other. Part of the reason they were keeping tabs on us was because we had the highest incidence of work-related accidents in the hospital. This was costing them money, but when I said that my legs hurt from racing around the thinly carpeted concrete floors, my claim was denied by the hospital’s Blue Cross insurance company.
No time for nutrition
During our 12-hour shift, we were allowed one 30-minute break for lunch - that was it. It was barely enough time to eat, relax a little and get back to the unit. There was no scheduled time allowed for dinner at all.
Initially, we scheduled our own shifts but when part of the hospital started to move in, they began making up the schedules. I wanted three 12-hour shifts in a row and the woman who made up the schedule either forgot that or deliberately ignored it. She and I started to have difficulties. Almost every week, I would have to contact her and talk about the schedule. I told her that when I was hired, I was promised three 12-hour shifts in a row; each week, she seemed to forget our previous conversation."
"The hospital administration views nurses
as medical waitresses.
It’s broaching on breaking the law by making nurses
take on patients that they will never see."
"I began to dread going to work - there was always a problem. I didn't like the way many of the patients were treated - I was used to private duty where your "client" was always freshly bathed and dressed and where their home was clean. Another move on the hospital’s part to cut costs was to shift staff from our unit over to another unit if our patient count was down. And, until they hired a marketing director, it often was.
But, working on other units allowed me to see the difference between a well-run unit and ours. One, in particular I really liked. When the time came for my three-month review, I requested that I be transferred to this unit. However, I wasn't given that opportunity - I was fired.
I guess I was pretty frustrated about working there. However, there were other staff members who seemed to be able to get away with sloppy work but they were never called on the carpet. In retrospect, it was one of the worst job experiences I've ever had. Ugh, my stomach is churning just recalling that horrible experience!”
A dead-end system - C.Z., homeopathic medical assistant, Sedona
“I am a licensed homeopathic medical assistant. In our practice there is a 78-year-old woman who is bipolar. She also has two serious hernias and a skin condition. She desperately needs a hernia surgery so she can get around upright better without having pain.
Why doesn’t she get it? Because it, like many surgeries, is considered an outpatient procedure. She cannot get the state to pay for someone to be with her during her recovery; they say there are not enough people to do that. She has called different agencies but there is no one person that has the job to help the elderly figure out what to do. So she goes uncared for and unattended because of Medicare policy.
She has tried twice to get long-term care but, for some technicality, she doesn’t seem to qualify. It breaks my heart to see the hovel of a trailer she lives in and how much care she really needs. She does not want to live in a nursing home (who could blame her?) until absolutely necessary.
I have tried to steer her to the right people but it always comes to a dead end. I am not a social worker, and the system is more complex than ANY of us know how to deal with – especially for an elderly person who goes through mental mood swings.”
Two nurses document the crises
in regional hospitals and across
America in general
It's a shame that one in every five Arizonans go uninsured. As a patient
advocate, I believe it is my duty to help everyone in America gain the right
to have guaranteed health care. -- Flagstaff Medical Center RN
Hospital Bottom Lines
Compromise Patient Care
"Increasingly horrendous hospital conditions forced me
to quit my job."
by Elizabeth Sanders, Sedona RN
“I’ve been a nurse for more than 30 years and have watched things go from bad to worse in hospitals.
I quit my job at a nearby hospital five months ago after watching the ongoing degeneration in health care under its new CEO, who received a $1 million bonus in addition to his salary while nurses are struggling and patients suffer. The health-care organization that oversees this 110-bed hospital operates many others and is the largest in northern Arizona.
There’s no way to get true quality health care at this facility due to increasingly horrendous conditions. How do they get away with it? They’ve got good people working for them who hold the system up because they can’t afford to lose their jobs. There’s nowhere else to work.
One bedside at a time
A nurse can only be at one bedside at a time. The hospital makes it extremely difficult for nurses to maintain their standard of care by forcing them to take on as many as six or seven patients at a time. This represents a 50-percent increase in a nurse’s workload because we used to care for approximately four patients at any one time. They do it so they can make more money and all those big bonuses.
Naturally, they didn’t offer the nurses any more compensation for such an increase in our workload. The hospital prefers to hire new grads for half the standard wage. And patient care is so bad because we operate without a sufficient number of support staff to help us accommodate all the additional patients.
The California Nurses Association got a law passed that nurses shouldn’t handle more than five patients. There are legislative efforts underway in many states to set a limit on the number of patients that can be assigned to a nurse. This is in the best interest of proper patient care.
Also, if hospital patients can walk and talk, they are discharged as quickly as possible when they should be treated longer for their condition. That’s because the hospital makes its money on the bed rate – no different than a hotel. It’s all a big business.
Another reason I left is because the hospital lost its JAACO accreditation. Going with basic state licensing is substandard and unacceptable to me as a health-care professional. The regulations and conditions of licensure for a hospital in Arizona mandate an acuity system. Things are getting so substandard at the hospital network where I worked because the acuity system measures how much nursing care a patient needs. It’s a condition of licensing.
The hospital was forced to develop an acuity system to ensure that patients get the nursing care they need. But the administration came up with a system that doesn’t rely on bedside nurses. And they’re not listening to us. That’s why the hospital lost a lot of good staff and experienced nurses. It went through 10 directors of nursing units in just two years.
The hospital administration views nurses as medical waitresses. It’s broaching on breaking the law by making nurses take on patients that they will never see.
The Arizona Nurse Practice Act states that a nurse will not allow herself to be placed in an unsafe situation, such as taking on more patients than she can handle. It’s not just ethics here; it’s the law.
What’s ironic is that the original founder of this health-care organization never took a penny while building one of the member hospitals all his life. In fact, he gave it to the city as a community asset.
So my question is this: Did the city sell the hospital back to the nonprofit health-care organization? As a nonprofit, does it receive federal funding for grants, research and new wings? If so, there’s a statute that mandates the organization must do pro bono health care for the community. And if this is the case, I’m sure they have found a way around it to look legal.
A wolf in nonprofit clothing
People think because it’s a nonprofit hospital, everything is fine and dandy. But nonprofit doesn’t mean they’re for wellness and not for profit. The hospital’s PR campaigns have the public fooled into thinking they’re right up there with sainthood yet just the opposite is true.
Everyone at the hospital knows that the administration was found guilty of violating labor laws at another one of its hospitals, where employees are trying to form a union to improve the bad working and patient conditions. And how did they respond? By bullying employees and threatening them with fear of losing their jobs and pensions if they joined the union.
That’s how they operate – like the companies 100 years ago. And I never got a lunch or meal break when I worked there either in the course of a 12-hour day or more. It sounds like the companies of 100 years ago. It’s crazy. It makes you wonder what century were in or if America is regressing. The scary part is that this is happening everywhere, not just here.”
It’s Worse than Anyone Even Realizes
"America should be ashamed of its health-care system."
by Barb Wire, RN, Tucson (recently moved from Cottonwood)
“I was a travel nurse for 3½ years. I have worked in many hospitals across the nation (one in Maryland, one in Ohio, two in New Mexico, and seven in Arizona). I have experienced the working environments in each state, but basically it is the same situation in each one.
As a nurse, I feel we are understaffed and underpaid. The normal ratio is one nurse to anywhere between five and 10 patients. The more patients you have to care for, the worse care you get. Being only one nurse for a person, I can only do one thing at a time. It's frustrating when you have two or more patients needing your attention at the same time. It's a shame when you got to prioritize your patients by what they are asking for. By the time you make it down your list of priorities, then a whole new batch has cropped up to take their place.
This is a lot like triage in the ER but we have to do it on the floor now. It's a never-ending circle and makes for a very long day of stress and fatigue. There has been many days when I have went home exhausted and the little effort it took to get out of my uniform and into my pajamas took the most effort, especially since all I wanted to do was go to bed and get some sleep.
"If the patient has a major medical setback or they die because of it, then there is hell to pay."
This is a very stressful profession, yet we get treated like a piece of meat and are not appreciated. Because of the demands placed on us, I feel this leads to the multiple mistakes that occur throughout health care because we have to rush to get things done.
Often times thing get overlooked. Most times this is “okay” because it causes no harm to the patient. Yet if the patient has a major medical setback or they die because of it, then there is hell to pay. We then would have to go to court and have to pay a heavy fine and even lose our nursing license because of it. If we get to keep our license then in the future we are treated like lepers and have a hard time finding a good job.
I feel that the CNA'S and PCT'S are also understaffed as well. They have a high work load as well caring for the patients, giving out baths and making sure things are well.
The cleaning crew and housekeepers are understaffed as well. As a nurse, we discharge the patient, sometimes more than one at a time, and the housekeepers have to do a thoroughly clean job for the next patient.
This puts the patient, nurse and the hospital at a higher risk for lawsuit because the patients that wait in ER have to wait an extended amount of time in a hold area waiting for the rooms to open up. Sometimes these patients never do make it to a room and stay three to four days in the holding area with no privacy whatsoever.
Lost in the shuffle
I feel bad for the most stable patients because they get lost in the shuffle while we care for the more needy and unstable. We don't have the time to sit and talk to our patients because of the time restraints placed on us to get all of our tasks done. We are forced to have our medications passed in a certain time frame, or the treatments needed to get the patient well.
There are forms to be filled out for everything. These take up the most amount of time. In a 12-hour shift, I would say filling out the paperwork takes up at least four hours on a good day.
If a patient has to go to a procedure, you have to hurry up and get the paperwork done in a very short time, which causes more stress on the nurse. When something gets missed or overlooked, then the nurse takes all the heat and gets chewed out for not getting everything done.
Patients booted out
I feel that oftentimes patients are kicked out of the hospitals before they are ready or even cured. More times than not, they are forced to leave, but then have to come back into the hospital through the ER, which accrues a higher cost. I have noticed that persons without insurance tend to get booted out of the hospital quicker than those with insurance.
If you are admitted to the hospital, with no insurance, they keep you for the bare minimum amount of time because the hospital is not getting paid. Oops, you're not even close to being better; too bad, so sad. You’ve got to leave now so they can have the bed for someone with insurance (someone who pays for expensive insurance at that). What is wrong with this picture?
Insurance or insanity?
From personal experience, I had to make a trip to the ER. I spent an hour waiting to be seen and then another seven hours awaiting tests just to find out what I all ready knew: I had bronchitis, which is what I had told the doctor when I first walked in the door.
After all was said and done, I had to pay roughly $1,000, and that was after my insurance paid out. I can't imagine the cost if I hadn't been insured. I was also prescribed an antibiotic called Z-pak, which cost me $50 for a five-day supply. Bronchitis is a simple diagnosis. Doctors used to be able to make this diagnosis without running up $1,000 bill for tests that weren't necessary.
Other countries have standardized care, where people are truly not left behind. If you don't have insurance, who cares? Because you still get the same care as everyone else with little or no charge.
In America, the first thing they ask for is an insurance card. If you have insurance, the second thing they ask for is the co-pay and then maybe you will get seen. If you don't have insurance, you will be the last person seen and then it might be 20 hours later or longer (unless you're bleeding to death all over the ER floor!).
A shameful situation
After seeing Michael Moore's movie SiCKO, I realized it is even worse then what I have seen. It makes me ashamed of America when people have to choose between eating or paying for their medications. This is especially true of the elderly who have a fixed income. My grandmother has opted not to take some of her medications because they were $200-$300 per prescription.
I was appalled about the people who have to declare bankruptcy because they got some unexpected illness, and the insurance company either won't pay or would pay little of the cost to cover the procedures/hospital stay to correct the illness. How is it that one of the richest, if not the richest country, in the world can't come up with a decent health-care system or insurance? Other countries are doing it; why can't we?
It makes me wonder how the U.S. can afford the money spent on the war effort, but it can't even help people on its own soil with health-care needs. How much suffering has to take place before the higher-ups take notice? Even if they notice, do they really care?
In my opinion, they really don't care because it's not happening to them personally. It doesn't affect them as a person or it doesn't affect their family members nor do they have to pay the costs for illness/hospital stays. They have the luxury of sticking their heads in the sand and hoping it will go away.
Time to take a stand
If more people stood up for themselves and spoke their truth, then it might actually make a difference. People are scared of change, but sometimes change is a good thing.
I was also appalled at how the 9/11 volunteers are treated. These people volunteered their time and effort out of the goodness of their hearts and now they face health-care issues because of what they had to endure while the clean up was taking place. What happened to the money set aside for their needs? Did it even exist or did it end up lining some rich bureaucrat’s pocket? Does this person even need the extra cash? I guess they needed that new BMW or boat worse than the people of 9/11 needed health-care. Where is the justice in that?
What has the world come to when the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay get better health care then most Americans on U.S. soil? Even if you have insurance, bets are you are not covered as much as you like to think you are. Three years ago, a bag of normal saline (saltwater solution) cost $72 a bag, and I'm sure the cost has gone up drastically since then.
Fending for ourselves
Why is it that pharmaceuticals in America cost $200 but you can cross into Mexico and get them for $10? Even with my insurance, I have learned to self-diagnose and then proceed to go to Mexico for medications I need to help correct the problem. A friend of mine has had the Mexican medications analyzed and they stand up to the American version.
I also have become more pro-active in my health-care. I have switched over to alternative and natural health care. By taking natural vitamins and herbs and working with a massage therapist, a chiropractor, as well as an energy therapist who uses healing touch/Traditional Usui Reiki, I have became more and more healthier.
I only see a doctor for the routine physical, the dentist for a routine clean/checkup, and the eye doctor for new prescription lenses. Pretty amazing to see how far I have come in three years.
A nationwide problem
Traveling nurses are placed in hospitals where the staff nurses are low in number and they need the extra help for patient care. We are not appreciated and may get the worst assignments possible. We may get the craziest, most needy patients on the floor or our assignment is so scattered that we have to walk from one end of the floor/unit to the other just to see all of our patients.
Another situation is that we may start with two patients and then are expected to get all of the admissions coming to the floor. Sometimes we may get anywhere from three to six new patients in a 12-hour shift. There is a lot of work that goes into getting new patients, from the initial assessment to all the paperwork that goes into admitting these people.
On days like this, we are lucky to get out the door on time at the end of the shift, and usually have to stay an extra hour or two just to complete the paperwork required.
"It's the patients who suffer..."
Many times, the staff nurses are very unsupportive and unhelpful. They let you drown because you are a traveling nurse and make more than them. This sad lack of teamwork makes it hard to be a nurse and to give the proper care patients need. It's the patients who suffer the most, which is sad because they don't need the extra stress while they are trying to heal.
I am blessed now to have found a good non-profit hospital to work for. I am no longer traveling and have taken a position at a hospital where the teamwork is high and the moral is good.
Not all hospitals I have encountered in the last 11 years of nursing have been all bad. Each one has had its good and bad qualities, but that can be found in all jobs and situations. Yes, some have been much better than others, but the end result is the same. I can make the difference, just one step/patient at a time.
We need to change the SiCKO health system for our patients and for the staff as medical professionals. This would be a win-win for all concerned. Will you help your fellow American?
Focus: Patient care
— not paychecks
"Patients: Our No. 1 Priority" reads the banner held by nurses and other workers
from Flagstaff Medical Center during a recent SiCKO screening and rally.
Photo courtesy of Scott Barnes.
None of the local or regional nurses who reported their workplace grievances to The Sedona Observer emphasized pay as their primary concern. Instead, the overwhelming majority expressed sheer frustration over their inability to provide proper patient care due to an increase in the hospitals' assigned nurse-to-patient ratios.
"It's just humanly impossible to tend to that many sick people," reports a nurse from Cottonwood. "The hospital is making so much money yet it all goes into the pockets of the executives at the top who apparently don't care about their patients - or employees," she said. "Where's the humanity?"
Author Barbara Ehrenreich had these words for nurses during a recent rally:
Registered nurses have got to be at the forefront of the struggle for a just and egalitarian health-care system in this country for the simple reason that you are the last generalists in the health-care field…as well as the strongest, boldest, loudest voice for genuine health-care reform in this country today.
The future of health care for all Americans lies at the heart of the health-care workers movement. We should be grateful not only for the incredible service these workers perform and their unwavering dedication to their patients - but to their commitment to the wellness of every man, woman and child in America.
Indeed, they are truly "intensive care" specialists for us all.
Any claims or allegations implied by the public or contributors do not reflect or represent the editorial opinion of this newspaper.
The Sedona Observer will continue to investigate any reports made by patients against health care institutions as part of our journalistic responsibility to expose abuse and social injustice against humanity with dignity, accuracy and integrity.
We abide by media law and uphold the time-honored policies of the Journalism Code of Ethics.
The Sedona Observer publishes all opinions under the First Amendment and welcomes those with any opposing views to submit letters and testimonials.
The Sedona Observer extends special acknowledgement to Barbara Hansen of HealthcarePhotos.com for the images appearing here and on the front page. Thank you, Barbara, and all those writers and artists who made a contribution. See our Masthead and Bios on the WHO page for more information.