The Human touch

In my recent blog about modern working practices I alluded to the drive towards robots/machines replacing the need for human labour. My theory has recently been blown apart somewhat by a recent visit to hospital for an arthroscopy.

Firstly there is the process of actually meeting the Orthopaedic surgeon. I had to first see my doctor (took five weeks to get an appointment) and then I was duly referred to the surgeon. Well actually, a trainee. I was assessed and sent for an MRI. This took a couple of months. Next I came back to see another assistant and then the consultant arrived. I wanted to use the NHS rather than pay private (do you blame me?) but the restrictions now are that if I was able to sleep at night and my knee did not lock then I could not have surgery. After eighteen months of pain, I was ready to plead to anything other than my leg dropping off. He agreed to operate.

Next was the pre-op assessment. This took an hour and involved a whole day as I was on holiday at the time and had to travel back to the general.

The the day came for my operation. I arrived at 7.30 and settled down in the day surgical unit. I had three attentive nurses who asked me the same series of questions I had been asked at my pre-op assessment. I had two wristbands with my name and date of birth on and two red warning bands for my allergy to Elastoplast. The anaesthetist then came to speak with me and asked me for my date of birth before explaining that worse case scenario would be she might knock my teeth out in an emergency. Whist I was still pondering that thought I was asked my date for my name, date of birth and address at least three times by a nurse, a physio and someone who taught me how to walk with crutches (with my name on and date of birth on).

This way!!!

Then hospital surgical support manager wanted me to sign a consent form and asked for my details all over again. Was this a test? Well maybe, because he then reached into his pocket and said, “what knee is being operated on.” “my right” I said, he pulled the top off a indelible ink marker and wrote “scope” together with an arrow pointing to my knee.

It seemed I was ready to go. Two hours later I walked with a nurse to the theatre two floors below. I am never comfortable walking about in public with my dressing gown on, even more so when I discovered to my horror that I had cat claw marks all over it. They have a lot to answer for.

I arrived to meet my anaesthetist (again) who had another assistant who again, for some reason, asked my name and date of birth. Was the form I had just signed was signed by me. Soon I was fast asleep although it is strange that I don’t dream under anaesthetic. It’s like time stands still and you wake again in another place 45 minutes later. I was wheeled back to the ward by a porter and recovered leaving at 3pm.

Reflecting back to thoughts about machines taking over the world of work my visit to hospital gave me some welcome reassurance. The medicines like anaesthetic now are very advanced, measured precisely to meet the patients needs and length of operation. The tools used to perform the operation are precision accurate; there is no way I ever want an automated operation! But the most compelling part of my experience: that people that make it. No machine could take away the skill of the surgeon, nor the compassion of the nurses, nor the attention to detail (especially my date of birth).

We owe a debt of gratitude to those that serve us. Even a day after my surgery I feel better than I have for months. I was asked to complete a feedback form on my treatment for the day in the unit. I dismayed to see the question which member of staff was the best. They were all equally professional, empathetic and kind. No machine can replace the human touch. The most amazing thing, they do it all again the next day.

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