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  8. It’s Only One IV

It’s Only One IV

I was lying in the preop area, waiting to be taken in for abdominal surgery, when a nurse came along with a bag of liquid and hung it from my IV pole.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s an antibiotic,” she replied.

“I’m not scheduled to get an antibiotic,” I said.

“Your surgeon ordered it,” she said.

“When?” I asked. “I saw him two days ago. We went over my meds, and he specifically noted, ‘No preop meds, just IV fluids.'”

“Well, he must have changed his mind,” she said.

“Can I see the order label?” I asked.

She replied, a note of irritation now evident in her voice: “I know what I’m doing.” She then opened the connection between the new bag and my IV line and left.

I pushed my call button, and the charge nurse came over. I asked if the antibiotic was really for me. She checked the bag, opened my OR notebook (which the other nurse hadn’t done), checked my ID bracelet, cursed under her breath and took the bag of antibiotic away.

Nobody ever apologized that day.

When I received my bill, it included a charge for the IV antibiotic. It took me four phone calls to get the charge removed, and still nobody apologized. One billing office person said, “Well, it’s only one IV, and it didn’t cost very much.”

When my surgeon stopped to see me after the operation, while he was doing his rounds, I told him about the mistake. He sighed and said, “I heard about that. The second problem that day was that they never asked who the antibiotic should have been given to.” He paused, then said, “The hospital, the preop chief, and I have discussed this in detail. It should not happen again. And I am sorry.”

There, was that so hard?

Sandra Shea
Carbondale, Illinois


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