A Day in the Life: Acute Care

The workday began at 7:30 and always started in front of a computer. Like a Norse fortuneteller, I'd cast the runes of my day by logging onto my account. I never knew what to expect. What host of characters would I meet that day?

After skimming a list of at least twelve potential clients to see, I’d pick the first three or four I’d see that morning. The list was always longer than what I’d complete in the day, it just presented me with options. There was a method to choosing which patients to prioritize, but even that didn’t always dictate the flow of the day. The general rule was to see people in the order they had arrived at the hospital, and to get to the people who were on the verge of discharge. At times, an occupational therapy note was the one thing holding a patient between the confines of the hospital and the freedom of being released back into the world.

After picking the first few clients, the next task was to chart review. Chart reviewing is a beast of a practice, because it can take you down rabbit holes you never knew you wanted to travel. During my time at the hospital, I had to learn how to discern between vital information and the information that simply struck my personal interest. I asked myself: What should I know before I step through that door?” Generally, diagnosis, reason for their hospital visit, precautions, home set up, and support available from family, friends, or others is what I’d jot down on a little sheet of paper/notebook. It’s important to note that while helpful, a chart review is only a starting place. Like a puzzle, it’s the corner pieces, providing me a frame with which to orient the rest of the pieces of each client’s story. I never could finish a puzzle prior to meeting a client. They always surprised me, leaving a picture I could never imagine on my own.

After the initial lull of chart reviewing the day’s pace quickened. I’d visit a patient, write a note, visit a patient, write another note, and so on. I’d get to as many as I could, and then chart review further clients on the list as time allowed. Finally, between 12pm-1pm, I’d take a lunch.

After hours of popping in and out of patient’s spaces, I craved a space of my own. So, for 30 minutes, I left the structure of the hospital behind, and I’d find a table in the sunlight. I’d eat my lunch as quickly as I could, so I could use the rest of my time daydreaming or chatting with a friend. It was a sweet time of recharge. The final reset before falling back into the flow of acute care. Most days, I tried to knock out evaluations during the first half of the day, and then during the second half of the day, I’d slow down with treatments. My day ended at either 3:30pm or 6:30pm depending on the week (I had an alternating schedule), and usually I’d be writing up my final note within the last 45 minutes of the day.

Once my final note was typed up and submitted, I headed out of work with a whole evening to use as I pleased. Sometimes that meant going over things I didn’t have time to dive into at work, or simply pampering myself with dinner, friends, a show, or book. The beauty of acute care is that it’s an ever-unwinding mystery. Filled with good and bad, but mostly moments of the in-between. I came home and would bask in the day’s victories and seek comfort for the day’s defeats. But all in all, they were days to be cherished. Shouldn’t they be? Any day I can take part in someone’s story, even for eight minutes at a time, should be cherished.

-Til next time


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