Do you think of a hospital as a place to rest and recuperate from a serious illness or injury?  The sheer volume of activities and services that interrupt patients’ rest may thwart this goal.  How many times would you guess that doctors, nurses, and others (besides visitors) enter a patient’s hospital room on a typical day?

My unscientific answer is based on a relative’s recent hospital stay.  While she has Alzheimer’s and was in the hospital to replace a broken hip, she is otherwise in excellent health:  no heart disease, no diabetes, etc.  Thus, she probably saw far fewer doctors and hospital staff than many people do.

On the first full day she was in the hospital, my records -- which probably capture about two-thirds of the activity -- identified 97 person-visits. (What’s a person-visit?  If two people came to handle a particular task, such as bathing the patient and simultaneously changing the sheets, I counted that as two person-visits.  If one person came twice to give medicine, as another example, I counted that as two person-visits as well.)

Who were all those people and what were they doing?  The day saw visits from the orthopedic surgeon, an x-ray technician, a hospitalist (hospital-based doctor), nurses, patient care technicians (nursing assistants or aides), a lab tech, a social worker, physical therapists, an information technology specialist, food service staff, an anesthesia representative, a nutritionist and cleaners. 

They took vital signs; drew blood; delivered meals and took away the trays later; bathed the patient; changed the sheets; delivered pain meds; reset an IV line after alarms indicated a problem (about four times an hour for a while); changed the IV bags; and repositioned the patient every two hours to avoid bed sores.

They conducted a patient satisfaction survey about the anesthesia process; arranged for online access to the patient’s medical records; discussed nutritional needs during the hospitalization; gave pills; injected medicine; emptied the catheter bag; updated an information board on the wall; and brought – in separate visits – tissues, a basin, toothbrush and toothpaste, washcloths, blankets, sheets, ice water and juice.

They applied lotion to skin irritated by EKG electrode patches; set the position of her feet and legs to keep the new hip at the proper angle; removed and later reinserted a catheter; removed an oxygen cannula (tube connected to a nose piece); removed an IV line; got her out of bed and back in a few hours later; discussed plans for discharging her; and cleaned the room.

And all that traffic doesn’t even count a similar set of person-visits for her roommate. Altogether, someone entered the room on average every 5-10 minutes during waking hours.  The point?   Don’t expect a lot of rest and recuperation in the hospital.