Room B is our largest room on the ward. It is always full of infants and toddlers with illness such as diarrhea, pneumonia, skin infections or urinary tract infections. Often the single room can have 20 patients along with 20 mothers. During visiting hours, it is extremely cramped!
When I am assigned the room, I try to discharge as many patients as possible. I always want to clear some space and free-up the nurses to care for the critically ill children.
Unfortunately, many mothers of patients who are doing well often refuse to go home when I recommend discharge. They want their child completely back to normal before stepping out of the hospital gates.
Each day I plead with the families, asking them to leave. I try to explain that they would do better at home away from all of the hospital germs. Most days, my words fall on deaf ears.
However, over the last three weeks, I have had two days when nearly every mother asked for discharge. Some that were not doing well even asked to go home. On the first occasion, I went with the flow and nearly emptied out the room. Only the truly sick patients were left. But on the second time, I started questioning their motives. They all just said, “We want to go”.
Afterwards, I sat down and thought. What was different? What was the connection? How were these two days similar?
The light bulb went off!
The night before each discharge-filled day, an extremely sick, malnourished patient died. Both deaths involved patients who had initially been assigned to room B.
The mothers then confirmed my suspicions that they all wanted to leave because the death was frightening.