As I write this post, I am relying primarily on the vision of my left eye, as my right eye vision has been impaired for the last several days now. Last week, I noticed acute blurry right eye vision, and went to the ED, remembering that acutely blurred vision was an indication for prompt evaluation by a doctor. After 5 hours spent in the hospital with discharge around 2 AM, I was diagnosed with three corneal ulcers. Although I have seen doctors several times throughout medical school and been to the ED once each year, this time I was very astute to the patient experience and have gained newfound insight as a fourth year student.
First, I was astounded by how many times the patient has to give their HPI (history of present illness). I was aware patients have to deliver their story several times, but I did not know I would have to repeat the details of my event seven times; to various nurses, residents, attendings, specialists who saw me. I forgot how many providers a patient can see in just one visit, having spent most of my time on the provider side. It was also interesting being evaluated by residents I had worked with on second-year rotations, and it made me wonder how physicians feel when they are in the hospital and being seen by colleagues. A matter I was already aware of was the extensive wait times; however, this time I learned there is good reason for each minute spent tapping feet for someone to come see you. For example, I waited hours to be seen by ophthalmology because they were dealing with an urgent eye trauma in the ED, which of course cannot be helped. I also waited quite some time to be discharged because the ED staff was busy signing out to the oncoming team and switching shifts, and the nurse could not officially discharge me until the resident had completed my discharge summary (which having done several on rotations now, I know take a tedious amount of time). Overall, I have gained further respect for the patience of patients (no pun intended) who navigate the health system.