5 Things I learnt as an inpatient

I have been an inpatient recently. I was in hospital for a little over 2 weeks to have a malignant tumour taken out of my face. As well as being an oncology patient, I was also a plastic surgery patient – muscle was taken from my abdomen to fill the cavity.

While I was an inpatient, I couldn’t help observing things:

  • Ward nurses lead very regimented lives at work. Medications, dressings, wound care, and countless other things run to a timetable. There is no time for education. If you want to reach ward nurses, find out what times the handovers are and arrange to have training on the ward or nearby then and there.
  • Nurses have to read a certain amount of papers to reach CPD goals. Nurses also always have their mobiles with them and they use them for work. Why not combine them and show them how to find articles via mobile?
  • Ward rounds with clinicians seem to go faster and faster these days. When I was an inpatient 20 years ago, they were longer but due to more patients and less time overall, many hospitals have restructured ward rounds. When I started doing them in the the Acute Medical Unit at work, there was more time taken and I was asked questions. Then the restructure occurred and no time was given to an educational component. I felt like a spare wheel so I asked a geriatrician how I could contribute in a meaningful way and was invited to take part in the educational lunchtime meetings.
  • Clinicians and other specialists also use mobile phones for lots of things. Did you think the flashlight on your mobile phone was pointless? Not to the ENT and plastic surgeons – they turned them on to look inside my mouth!
  • Nurses take a lot of crap from some patients. Have you seen those advertisements recently about violence towards healthcare staff? When I was an inpatient, an incident occurred that could have gotten scary. A patient was being more than obstreperous and dragging himself around the corridors. After things had calmed down, I asked the nurses on night duty if they were OK. They looked pleased that I asked. Why not do something nice for your nurses today?

These are little learnings I took on board. I am at home now and undergoing radiotherapy every weekday until August 11.  I look forward to doing some more blog posts before I return to work.



Conferences of note

I’m on conference strike! International conferences that is. I’ve been travelling to the other side of the world (apart from countries in Asia) every year since 2009. It has gotten a bit wearing. So, I’m on a conference strike (temporary mind you) for a little while.

There are 2 conferences and 1 workshop in Europe that I would attend if I weren’t on strike. One is the ICML+EAHIL conference at Dublin Castle, Ireland. The program looks great – check it out here. Michelle Kraft is one of the keynote speakers. Registration is now open.

The other conference I would’ve attended is the International Clinical Librarians Conference (ICLC). I attended last year when ICLC paired with the MLA annual meeting in Toronto. It was full on but great. The ICLC organisers are lovely people and it is well worth attending. Planning on visiting the UK for a holiday this year? Why not combine it with a conference? Registrations are now open!

I used to be Chair-Elect and then Chair of the HTAi Information Retrieval Group and part of my role was organising and running the annual pre-conference Advanced Searching workshop. I’m on the Executive Committee assisting the current Chair and Chair-elect and one of those roles is to help advertise the workshop. It looks great though, and early bird registration has been extended to the end of March. You don’t have to attend the HTAi conference itself, though some of the program and workshops on Saturday before the IRG workshop look good. The IRG workshop is called Text Analysis Tools And Rapid Reviews: Practical Guidance For Advanced Information Retrieval. Click here for the HTAi 2017 conference website. This year HTAi2017 is in Rome.

So what is the next conference/workshop I’m going to attend that is a flight away? It will probably be Health Libraries Australia annual PD day, to be held in Perth this July. I’ve not been to WA before, so it could be an interesting trip.





Catherine on haemo in the late ’90s.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of my kidney transplant. Seems an age ago that I was on haemodialysis and on the transplant list.

When I was a final year undergrad writing my thesis, I noticed something was wrong. I was told that I had ESKD after a visit to a specialist. When my kidneys failed, I had to make changes to the way I lived in order to remain as healthy as possible. First I was put on peritoneal dialysis – preferable for young adults on the go. But what I didn’t know was that I had a hole in my diaphragm. Cue pneumonia! Oh dear. So the alternative was haemodialysis. The first fistula didn’t work so I had a vein taken out of my leg to be put in my arm. What people don’t tell you is that the arterial blood rushing through the fistula creates a buzzing sensation that makes it hard for some people to sleep. Luckily I didn’t have this problem. I went 3 times a week to the Berwick dialysis centre (Berwick is an outer suburb in SE Melbourne) by train for 4 hours of dialysis. I got my first job (part time) while on dialysis. It was a technicians job at the Ian Potter Art Conservation Centre. I also got a temporary job doing a condition report on the children’s book collection in the Rare Books dept of the University of Melbourne library. I had to be careful lifting and moving items because I was a bleeder. I needed special pressure bandages to stop the bleeding after dialysis. Once I took a bandage off too soon. I won’t say what happened – luckily I was at home at the time!

The changes I had to make to my life were mainly dietary. Low protein low salt low phosphorous diet and a bag of sweets every other day for energy. I couldn’t cope with peritoneal diet – loads of protein. I just couldn’t do it. The other was managing my life so I wasn’t totally exhausted by the end of each day. And of course, managing how much I drank. When your urinary output is nil, monitoring how much you drink is an essential factor.

My Mum got the call around midnight or 2am – can’t remember – so she had to wake me up and get me functioning enough to zip through to hospital. It was very exciting and nerve wracking. As soon as the kidney went in, everything started working at once. I hadn’t menstruated for over 2 years or passed urine (so my muscles were very unfit – heh!). It was a bit embarrassing as I hadn’t brought any feminine supplies. Walking was hard at first because the kidney was so HEAVY! Something I didn’t expect.

From daily to weekly visits after discharge, I now visit outpatients once every 6 to 8 weeks. I’m not on a lot of medication which is great and I’m in goodish health. I had a clinic visit last Monday and it was just a matter of time until I saw a clinician that I helped earlier at my place of work. That’s the main reason why I don’t get seen at the hospital where I work – to try to limit this sort of encounter from occurring.

So what does having a kidney transplant mean to me? It means freedom to live to my fullest potential professionally and personally. I can travel, work full time, have a sexual relationship, eat what I like (within reason of course!), go overseas, and have time to explore, to discover and relax. I celebrate my kidney’s birthday every year because I am privileged to have it and without it, I wouldn’t have the life I have today.

PS having a medical condition was not the deciding factor in going for medical librarianship – just so you know 😉