More than two decades back when I did my house surgeoncy, I had tough time with the length of ward rounds. Ward rounds started at 7:45AM and it would continue beyond 12noon without a coffee break. My feet ached, mind was numb with hypoglycemia. In those moments I used to think why rounds can’t be faster and why it was taking so much of time. But later with a personal experience, that impression changed.
During my early PG days, my grandmother got admitted in the pay ward with a minor surgical problem in the busiest surgical unit. Each day I noticed that she was waiting for the time of rounds. One day, on the operation day of the unit; rounds was not taken till afternoon. My grandmother was unhappy and was wondering why no one has come so far for rounds. I tried to console her by informing her that it was the operation day. Initially she was comforted but soon she started grumbling. Soon it was a full blown tantrum and she refused lunch.
The time flew past the afternoon to evening, I did my best to comfort her without any response. I tried to contact the members of the concerned unit. They were held up in the OT. I gave up the hope of pacifying her and told her that probably there won’t be any rounds as it was already very late. She remained inconsolable. Then there was a knock on the door and the unit chief was standing outside the door. He peeped inside without even stepping in and asked “How are you grandmother? Are you better enough to go home? My grandmother was beaming and became an unrecognisably different person.
From that day I understood the psychological importance of ward rounds to the patient. But it is important for the treating team as well. It helps to establish a rapport with the patient, helps in early detection of complications and often saves one from embarrassment or even legal proceedings.
Over the years I have noticed that doctors as a community have become unaware of the importance of rounds. Rounds is often delegated to junior colleagues and many regard it as a nuisance. The patient is forgotten and more attention is given to the case sheets, investigation reports and the x-ray or MRI images. Some even think it is the best time to catch up with missed calls, emails, Facebook or Whatsapp messages.