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One Lone RN: Second Knee Surgery

November 19, 2022

Another Way for week of November 11, 2022

One Lone RN and an Awesome Therapist

We knew the shortage of hospital workers was real and acute. My husband’s surgery was not a life and death matter, and he’s now recovering nicely from his second knee surgery. But I can only imagine how frustrating and deadly the labor shortages have been in some places.

At 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, a single RN was the lone visible staff person on our end of the hospital’s large hall for hip and knee replacement surgeries. And we were itching to go home!

His surgery went smoothly, the doctor was optimistic. But we made the mistake of accepting a Friday surgery, for which we checked in at 10:15 a.m. By that time the doctor’s schedule had been slowed with two other knee surgeries. My husband’s surgery edged later and later. This meant he wasn’t returned to his room until about 3 p.m. that afternoon. He was still hazy from anesthesia and a spinal block. And by that time, most of the physical therapists at the hospital were either busy or getting ready to go home. Which meant his first therapy session and walk down the hall would wait until the next morning. So, he bent and stretched his leg himself, which was almost painless due to the lingering effects of a spinal block.

On Saturday, we took note of the sign in the room which said most discharges would happen by 11 a.m. But it was almost 11 by the time any therapist even came for him, and lasted about an hour. The lone RN was tasked with making sure patients on both ends of the hall would be getting the right medications for home. My husband had seven different prescriptions, which all had to be entered in the patient’s record.

Hospital physical therapist helping Stuart walk down the hall for the first time.

Meanwhile, patient and wife were growing increasingly impatient and just wanting to go home. A dog and cat were anxiously waiting, we knew. We had thought we would easily be home by 12:30 or so, but it got later and later. We began to rumble loudly about our predicament, along with our stomachs. Where were other staff? Few and far between, which I guess is normal for a Saturday.

Pathetically sad pets, patiently waiting for “Daddy” to come home.

The nurse (who overheard us, I’m sure) had a nearly impossible job to finish: pages of electronic paperwork as well as thoroughly explaining to us and other patients what they would need to do to change the bandage, when to take medicine and when not to. The nurse also was dealing with a patient with memory problems at the other end of the hall. She was visibly frustrated using a neck device to call for a wheelchair for hubby’s departure: the neck device was like getting put on hold with a cell phone or other company. Waiting endlessly.

We tried to be more understanding but it was hard not to get upset and anxious about when we could go home. It is almost always harder to get checked out of a hospital, in our limited experience, than in. So be it. In the end, we apologized for mumbling and complaining so loudly. She was almost a saint in understanding and forgiving us regarding our frustration. I’m sad now I didn’t get her name.

So we made it home by 3 p.m. and the dog and cat were, of course, just fine. We are extremely grateful for the care of skilled nurses, CNAs, doctors, housekeepers, cooks, and custodians.

Back in the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, I wrote here how Stuart’s knee surgery then was hampered by his chosen physical therapy place being completely closed down because of the pandemic and all patients were dismissed. Luckily, after three weeks we were able to find a different physical therapy place which suited him very well. The therapist helped him get back to almost full use of his right leg. We’re very thankful and his recovery on his left leg is going very well.


Have you or a loved one ever had a long wait to be released–or admitted–to a hospital?

Has your family experienced lack of staff in a hospital stay?

Comment here or send your hospital stories to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books, most recently Memoir of an Unimagined Career: 43 Years Inside Mennonite Media. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Yes, I have a story for you, and it happened during Thanksgiving week in 1999.

    On Wednesday before the holiday Cliff went into the hospital to have a stent implanted in his heart. Fortunately, he did not have open-heart surgery, but still he had to have general anesthesia. The procedure went well, but he had to stay in the hospital overnight to be monitored. The doctor assured him he would be discharged the following day to celebrate the holiday with his family. Thursday came, no doctor to sign the papers. He contacted the nurse, still no doctor’s response. Then the nurse manager got involved, and she couldn’t get to the discharging doctor to respond either. This happened over the span of several hours. As you can guess from what you know about Cliff, he’s like the importunate widow woman in the Bible. He made enough of a ruckus, so that the doctor authorized the head nurse to discharge Cliff. I am sure they were happy to wheel him out of the hospital and into his waiting car. As well they should. 😀

    P.S. As you see, this incident happened long before COVID, and long before hospital staffing was the huge issue it is now.

    • Way to go Cliff — I can imagine some of my husband’s family doing the same thing. Wow, what a way to spend such a wonderful holiday–frustrating for sure. Thanks for sharing this story, it is welcome here. Hugs and happy thanksgiving to you this year!

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