This article comes with a caveat—that hospitals in this country are served by workers who are vastly underpaid and grossly overworked.
I, however, belong to a generation that believes in good breeding as never correlated with social class. To borrow a turn of phrase from an old film, no one has the monopoly of unyielding good taste.
Let me set a location. Last week I was hospitalized again due to an affliction in the same right leg. It was not in the complicated brain and not in the mystical, mysterious heart but in the leg! Do not get me wrong, I am perfectly aware that, like vicious cousins, diseases cannot be chosen.
So there I was in the Catholic hospital in our city, in a room with a view of overripe calamansi and a soft sunset courtesy of the kindest month of November. With the tiny birds crowning the trees and the quiet crucifix on the wall just to my left, I am left with hours ruminating, meditating not on death, naah, but on life and how we can control things while we are still alive.
Here are thus notes on manners that good health workers and attendants should master and embed in their soul.
First, we should take note of the patient. Unlike the label appended to him, the patient does not live up to that virtue of patience. He is cranky, impertinent, and, ah, impatient. Take note also that most patients are not dying. Hospitals are generally for healing.
This is for student-nurses. When you take the blood pressure of the patient, you are required no less than having the savvy of a diplomat. If you have a buddy, tell him not to say, “Wow, he is really hypertensive.” Again, language does the trick. During situations like this, I like it when a medical worker in his or her mellowest tone tells me that my blood pressure is slightly elevated. The word makes you feel you have been promoted or that you have reached some kind of record.
Still for the student-nurses: do not converse as if there is no patient listening to you. Be conscious of the pair of eyes darting from you and to your classmate. He is wondering why he is not part of the conversation when, in fact, he is the subject matter of your talk.
To the nurses, good manners still apply in the hospital room. If you want to inspect the afflicted leg of the patient, ask his permission if you can raise his hospital gown that, as designed, already makes him stupidly sexy and delicate. Do not go near him and without a hello, raise the cover to his leg. What if the opposite happens, and the patient raises your skirt as you approach him? Remember that consensual seems no excuse for Harvey Weinstein.
Friendliness is good when done in moderation. The hospital room is not a ballroom-dancing hall. While it is good to praise a patient, be circumspect. At six in the morning do not holler, “Sir, you look so fresh while I am already looking so haggard.” The patient does not really care about how you look. He cares about how he is feeling that day. Besides, do not begrudge the patient if he is looking mightily good. It is his right. As for you looking haggard, a dash of lipstick should do wonders. More than the makeup though, you must utter lots of prayers that you, as health workers, stay good and healthy and that wages be soon raised and the prices of medicine inside the hospital pharmacy be lowered. Do not mind the patient too much. He knows if he is going to live or die. In that condition, manners are unnecessary because at that point, the universe takes over and the universe, for all the dumb claims of beauty pageants, is beyond us.
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