5 ways to be an obnoxious hospital patient


Image: ZahidJavali / CC0 Public Domain

About two weeks ago, I started experiencing terrible stomach pains. I spent much of that Sunday in bed and in pain. Since I’m a doctor (I’m not), I diagnosed it as indigestion. It was probably something I ate that didn’t sit well with me. We’ve all been there, right?

The pain continued into the night and I didn’t get any sleep. Around dawn, I told my partner that maybe I ought to go to hospital. Why not the doctor? I don’t know; my gut was saying hospital (no pun intended). We called the hospital for advice and they told us to call 000.  An operator or an ambulance worker asked questions and, from my answers, determined I ought to go to hospital. So, off we went.

The rest happened very quickly. I was seen shortly and the emergency doctor thought I likely had gallstones. An ultrasound confirmed that and showed my gallbladder was very inflamed. As my friend Caroline said, “Who needs a bladder with an attitude problem?” It had to go.

I spent six days in the surgery and endoscopy centre in Melbourne’s Austin Hospital. There were four beds in my ward. I was the first one in and the last to go. I counted 13 people who came and went. I’m not complaining. I don’t care that I didn’t have a private room. I’m on the public system so I don’t expect one, and it’s fine. The doctors saw me daily. The nurses were all excellent – warm, friendly, and ever attentive. One of them, Boris, was with me during my most painful period, and he was wonderful. The staff that brought my meals were kind and generous.

We talk about good doctors, good nurses, good hospitals, good health care, but what about good patients? As I mentioned, I saw 13 of them rolled in and out of my ward. Here’s what I learned about how to be jerk while staying at the hospital.

1. Talk a lot. Loudly. Especially about yourself.

There was a patient in my ward that wouldn’t shut up. Let’s call her Jane. Jane is an attractive, middle-aged unnatural redhead who claimed to be a musician, the kind that has shared the stage with famous bands I’ve never heard of. She is kind, generous, gives endlessly to those around her, and never puts herself first. She is deeply spiritual, can see the dead, and reads tarot. I know this because she told me, and everyone else.

Don’t feel the need to stop talking just because others are asleep or wailing in pain. Just talk louder.

2. Be the expert.

Who needs doctors and nurses when you have Jane. She’ll explain the Paleo diet and remind you to think positive thoughts and the universe will do something.

3. Demand the nurse’s attention when someone else clearly needs it more.

One of my ward-mates needed an enema. Another needed assistance getting out of bed so he could go to the toilet. At one point, I suffered a severe two-hour attack of pain that only a shot of morphine to my stomach could soothe. Jane needed her pillow adjusted. There’s usually only one nurse per four patients. They typically said they’d be right with her, and I’m sure they were.

4. Pretend you’re the only person in the room.

Moving on from Jane, we have John. He never seemed to realise there were other people in the room. We each had a TV with a remote, the kind that’s attached to the wall and has not only controls for the TV, but also a button to turn your light on/off, and call the nurse. To listen to your program, it’s best to put the speaker next to your ear. In this manner, everyone can hear their their show without bothering anyone else, and the room remains quiet. John either didn’t know or didn’t care (my guess is the latter).  He turned up the volume and filled the room with his favourite free-to-air show. Even when he finally got up, got dressed, and left the hospital, he left the TV on with the volume up high.

5. Make sure your screaming kid visits.

John has a wife, but they never talk because he also has a three-year-old daughter named Brat, and all communication must be confined to Mummy and her. Would you like a….? NO! Um, okay, how about a…? NO! Well, then, maybe a…? NO! Screaming. Stomping. Brat, honey, please… NO! AAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHH!!!!! 

Four hours later, they finally leave. The rest of get some sleep.

Two jerks out of 13 people isn’t bad though, right?

It’s been almost two weeks since I had my gallbladder removed and I’m doing well. Imperfect though it may be, I’m very grateful for Australia’s public health care system. Take note, America.




  1. Hello. I came across your blog in an expat blog directory and have really enjoyed reading it. As an American expat (albeit from the Midwest and living in the UK), I found myself relating to many elements of your posts on expat life, immigration, etc. It’s also fun to learn a bit about another corner of the world. I’ll look forward to additional content!
    Bridget recently posted…Turning PointMy Profile

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