It should be noted that I’ve had some great healthcare on the NHS, and I’m grateful for it and what it stands for. However, I’ve also had some care which could be easily improved with very little effort, but which would make my experience as a patient so much better.
To my radiographer,
I’m sorry if that’s not your job title, but you didn’t tell me it or your name. I spend a lot of time in hospitals, so I wasn’t worried about the MRI today. Some bits were new to me though, and I could have done with more explanation.
You asked me if I’d had a cannula before, I said yes, when I’d been on a ward. You asked if I’d had an MRI before, I said yes, but never with contrast or a cannula. You had some issues finding a vein. You didn’t say ‘sharp scratch’ when you did it, so I wasn’t expecting it since you’d been poking my arm for a few minutes. Needles don’t bother me, but it could have done- you didn’t ask me.
You didn’t explain when you flushed it afterwards. I realised what you were doing and why based on my previous experiences, but I didn’t know when you were going to put the contrast in- you didn’t tell me. The MRI was of my head, something which I’ve had before, but you didn’t know that because it doesn’t show up on my record. You gave me earplugs and said it would be noisy. You strapped my head down without any warning and put a cage over it. You went over the patient safety questionnaire, at least I think you did, I couldn’t really hear or see you. You put the call bell into my hand- I know what this is but, again, you didn’t tell me. I might have been through an MRI scan before, but I still don’t like my limbs being moved without being told why!
One set of scans happened. Then you pulled me out, took my arm with the cannula in, put what I assume was the dye in my body and then the scans carried on. I couldn’t see or hear you though, so if you did explain, I didn’t hear and no one explained it beforehand.
I get it, you do hundreds of these a week. You have targets to meet. It seems quite obvious to you what happens and it’s not that big of a deal in comparison to other tests. Maybe you were having a bad day. But maybe you’ve forgotten that all patients have stories. You might not know why we’re here for our scan. For some people it could be a death sentence or devastating news. Others might have waited a long time for treatment. Some might be praying for good news after a long fight with cancer. Having a scan is part of the process and so we come to the department with a range of feelings. We might be anxious because we want to have answers. We might be desperate because the doctors are running out of ideas. We might be exhausted from having lots of tests and procedures. We might be worried because we don’t know what to expect. We might feel vulnerable or scared. We might be having a bad day too.
The scan itself might not be problematic, but the reason why we’re there could be. You could make someone feel more at ease with a few simple phrases- it really does make a difference. Today I needed you to: tell me your name and who you were; explain my scan to me and make sure I understood; make sure I could see or hear you when speaking to me during parts of the scan; reassure me that I could push the call buzzer if I needed to, and explain to me where my results would go following the test. A smile would have helped me not feel like another patient number in the system.
I spend a lot of time in hospitals so I know those answers. But you didn’t know any of that because you didn’t ask.