What's going on with healthcare these days?


Hmm.  The $64,000 question.  It's hard to imagine that we are closing in on two years of life with COVID.  So much has changed.  Why would healthcare be exempt?  Worker shortages have impacted the food and restaurant industry so much that tables remain empty with signs of explanation, "sorry, no workers to serve these tables."  These shortages have hit healthcare right between the eyes, and we feel the impact.  

Worker shortages across the board…

The reality from the ICU to medical floors, rehab, long-term care, and my arena: home care, is that many working in healthcare professions may be rethinking their chosen field.  Is this too risky?  Can I handle this?  Is it time for me to try something else?  The ever-present worry of "I've been exposed" or "a member of my family/household is positive" results in quarantine and fewer available workers.

Even during the good times, and by that, I mean "non-pandemic," staffing was always a challenge.  Finding the right personality match, client need, caregiver skill sets, geography, client requests, and staff availability is challenging enough.  Unfortunately, every provider of healthcare is facing the same hair-pulling reality.  So how do we meet the need?

We are in the business of helping.

People and families in crisis need help, and our norm is to be the providers of that help.  Not only are the caregivers in shorter supply, but the need is also greater than ever.  Very few patients want to go to "rehab" for any reason – not post-operative, not restorative, or post-acute hospitalization.  Everyone wants to "go home."  BUT… they need help.

Now, more than ever, we all need to be paying close attention to our OWN healthcare.  I've heard thousands of stories over my 40-years of nursing: "I don't need to know what my medications are, my pharmacy is in charge of that," or "my doctor's office handles everything for me."  But unfortunately, honest mistakes happen, especially when demand and stress are high.  It just makes sense to be your own most informed advocate.

Be prepared.

Know your diagnoses and medications.  It's never been a good idea to assume.  Check and double-check.  Ask, and ask again.  Make sure your medication dose is correct.  Make a list before every appointment of all the questions you want to ask.  Bring someone along to be your "ears," as it is very hard to remember everything, especially when the conversation is held in the language of "medicine."

Only a few weeks ago, I was scheduled for an MRI.  I was brought into the mammogram room and given a gown.  I was challenged when I asked why I was in that room.  "I'm having an MRI," says I.  I ended up getting the correct test, but if it can happen to me … it can certainly happen to you.

We've all heard the disaster stories… the wrong knee operated on and the works.  The intent here is not to frighten you but to get your attention that the time is NOW.  You are, in essence, your own health care manager.  A family member becomes the advocate for some of our friends who have cognitive issues and cannot do this for themselves.  For some families who live far away from their loved ones in need, we take on this role.  The important thing is that someone "owns" this job.  The buck stops here.

Very small mistakes can have very large consequences.

We do well to plan ahead, understanding the reality that medical practices and hospitals are stressed as never before, non-essential surgeries are being cancelled, and hospitals are closing in on capacity census.  Let's order our medication refills well ahead of running out and get to the PCP or urgent care before the weekend to avoid the emergency room visit.  Every week, my Thursday morning plan is to brainstorm with my nurse case managers: "what could go wrong," head things off at the pass, and have a cursory plan.

Our best bet is to do everything we can to promote and maintain our good health, and then, to use the helpers around us.  They don't "own" our problems; we do.  Our medical and caregiving experts are profound helpers and guides.  We so appreciate them and realize what an impossible task exists now.  We can do our part, which will help them do theirs.

health care manager, mri, healthcare right, joanne macinnis, covid-19