My view on environments, whether it be inside or outside the hospital, has always been, “Let’s not make a huge mess, so we don’t have to clean up the mess in the first place.” It drives me bonkers when I enter a patient’s room and there is stuff everywhere.
It doesn’t even have to be big stuff. Most of the time it is tissues, or a dietary slip from two meals ago, or a solitary spot on the floor when they spilled their cranberry cocktail (am I sure that’s cranberry cocktail?).
It gets worse though. Sometimes there are duffle bags worth of clothing, laptops, books, grocery bags filled with nick nacks etc. It is like they are moving in! I even had one patient call a moving company to bring some of his furniture to his room, dead serious. He was dealt with swiftly.
In one acute hospital stay, we are not going to change a behavior pattern of 30+ years. We are often lucky if the patient remembers to test their blood sugar or monitor their output from a drain so we know when to take them out (out patient). Don’t even get me started on congestive heart failure teaching, that will be another post entirely.
My solution to this is rather sneaky. Every time I come into the room, I take away more than I brought in. If I bring them a new drink, I clean up the two or three empty ones on their bedside table. When they go to PT, my tech or myself will strip the linens they’ve hoarded and change them. When the vascular doctor gets dressing supplies all over the place, I neatly pack them up and stow them away for the next time.
I understand this is probably a sickness I have, but it is part of my practice. I believe a clean environment is a safe and healing one. It is a never-ending, never-winning battle. But, the last thing I want getting between me and taking care of a patient is clutter. Ironically, I don’t have this compulsion at home, weird, huh?