Crouse: Grownups and Quietude


Excerpt of email from Crouse’s erstwhile VP of Parking: 

“I will, however, take one exception, and that is referring to our staff as ‘foolish’ (#7). You are more than entitled to your opinion (duh) and, as you know, I support a full, honest and robust dialogue at all times. But our staff is not foolish. (As an aside, I will guarantee you that in all of your 66 years of being alive, and in dealing with the ‘healthcare system’ in one form or another as you have, you have never – ever – received the care, attention and concern that you are receiving here at Crouse. Just so you know.)”

I agree 100%.

Other good things about Crouse Hospital:

In the Emergency Department they give you heated blankets.  Seriously.  This is a luxury on a par with having arms on your toilet.  Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  They have a blanket heater, which I picture as a big silver closet with double doors and shelves of blankets maintained at a lovely temperature.

If you get Nurse Rita in the Holding area of the Emergency Department she will order you a kosher meal.  She does this because she is sure it will be fresh and hot.  I got a big, juicy, hot hamburger—no bun—and a delicious baked potato, all wrapped in about four miles of aluminum foil, though I don’t know why.  But what I do know is that there’s a nurse down there thinking creatively about how to give the patient the best the hospital has to offer.

A middle-aged red-headed woman was the transporter who brought me from the Emergency Department to the med/surg floor.  In Emergency we were told I was going to Room 6018.  At 6018 we were met by a couple people from the nursing staff who said, no, I was going in 6017.  Where we were met by a couple more people who said, no, I was going to 6016.  Where we were met by a couple more people who got me sitting up with my feet hanging over the edge of the stretcher—and about a foot off the ground—and they asked if I could walk.  I said, as I have said a thousand times in the past decade, “If you give me a hand.”  And the red-headed transporter woman started to applaud.

It absolutely cracked me up.  Maybe it isn’t high comedy but here’s the thing:  she felt okay making a silly joke and that says something about the general tenor of life at Crouse Hospital.

At St. Joe’s, where I had a lot of trouble with an underage selfish nursing staff, a director told me that the problem is that middle-aged nurses leave hospital nursing—they’re suffering from burnout.  He said it’s a national problem.  Then a V.P. from Crouse told me that the average age of their nurses is 44.  How is it that Crouse is beating the national average?  What is it that they know—and do—that St. Joe’s doesn’t?

At St. Joe’s, the too-young nurses engaged in all the worst behaviors of gaggles of girls:  they gossiped, gathered in cliques, engaged in high drama, and cared a lot about how they were treated and less about how they treated their patients.  At Crouse, there’s a deeply settled feeling.  Very simply, Mom’s in the house and everything is going to be all right.

Remember how much you liked college and being free to do your own thing?  And then how (secretly) great it felt to go home on vacation and have mom there?  Your favorite foods would be cooked, important things didn’t get forgotten because mom always reminded you, and your clothes got picked up and laundered without you having to think about it.  And if you ever got really sick, your mom took care of you—not your kid sister.

Crouse’s staff members report that they’ve been working here 17 years, 22 years, 31 years.  One nurse reported that she started at Crouse, left to work at another hospital, and then came back to Crouse.  You know you’re doing something right when your nurses see the alternatives and then come back to you.   When you have an older workforce, then you have experience.  You have nurses who have learned the tricks of the trade—and every trade has tricks—and can pass them on.  I asked one 25-year-old nurse how often she consulted an older nurse on the best way to do something.  “Oh,” she said promptly, “75% of the time.”

And what if you have no experienced nurses around to be asked?  The 25-year-old also pointed out that older nurses are the bridge generation between old and new technology.  One older nurse—I call them “grownups”—grumbled about the IV pumps that are in constant use.  She remembered gravity IV drips and how well they worked.

Crouse is exceptionally quiet; St. Joe’s always had bells and whistles going off.  At Crouse, the only things I hear are IV pump alarms and bed alarms.  All hospital beds nowadays come with alarms whereby if the patient starts to get out of bed then an alarm goes off.  When pressure is removed from the bed then it closes a circuit or something.  This is used routinely for patients who are suffering dementia or some mind-altering state. 

The alarm can be switched on or off, and so it is also switched on when the nurse says, “Press your call bell when you need to get up; I don’t want you trying to get up by yourself.”  The nurse means it, as my roommate found out when she tried to go to the bathroom by herself.  Roomie was 82 and entirely clear-headed but when she went to put the leash on her dog, the dog flipped her and broke her shoulder.  You’d be surprised how much you rely on both shoulders for balance when you’re getting out of bed.

Anyway, I don’t know why Crouse is a quieter hospital but it is.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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