Mr. Smith has been sitting in his hospital gown on a cold stretcher waiting to be brought back for surgery. The 62-year-old glances at the clock on the wall, which reminds him that he has been waiting alone, thanks to the pandemic restrictions, for 45 minutes. He looks down at his arm and sees gauze pads and tape, reminders of when the new nurse tried, unsuccessfully, to place his IV before a more experienced provider was able to do it. He hears the distant murmurs of providers beyond the curtain and wonders what’s going on. A nurse comes to check on him, but he grumbly mumbles and crosses his arms while registering only the words “delay.”
On the other side of the curtain, the understaffed and overworked preoperative team is hurriedly checking in patients, assembling their charts, placing IV lines and starting antibiotics. Two hours past his scheduled start time, a member of the surgical team finally comes to take him back to the operating room. They talk over him, stopping only to ask him his name and birthday as part of their safety check. Mr. Smith refuses to answer. He is hungry, angry and tired. He raises his arm and clenches his fists as the nurse asks to check his ID bracelet.