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Bed Number Ten Reflection

Kendall Lillie

University of Saint Mary

Bed Number Ten Reflection 2

Ben Number Ten is a book about a women named Sue Baier who was diagnosed with

Guillain-Barre in the winter of 1980. This disorder affects the muscles in the body and leaves the

victim paralyzed for weeks, or even months. Before the disease, Sue was very active and

involved in her community. Once the disease progressed she was bed ridden and demoted to a

“number” rather the person she was originally. This left her frustrated, lonely, and anxious to

escape. This paper will discuss both the positive and negative incidences that occurred during

Sue’s eleven month stay in the hospital. It will relate these occurrences to a study found on

communication skills between nurses and mechanically ventilated patients. It will also examine

how a nurse can implement a better standard of care for those they encounter.

As soon as Sue arrived in the intensive care unit (ICU) the staff took all of her

belongings, including her beloved wedding rings (Baier & Schomaker, 1995, p.16). They told

her about the visitation limit of three visits a day only consisting of fifteen minutes each (Baier &

Schomaker, 1995, p.22). Since 1980, practice has changed for the better. Although there are still

hospitals with these policies, many allow the patient to keep their possessions in order for them

to feel safe and secure. Visitation guidelines depend on the hospital and the country where they

are located. In the article they examine an ICU in Botswana with the policy that two family

members can visit the patients three times a day for one hour (Dithole, Thupayagale-

Tshweneagae, Akpor, & Moleki, 2017, p.2). This visitation limit has both benefits and

drawbacks. A benefit is allowing the patient to rest in a time of sickness which is critically

needed. The drawback of visitation limits is that often times the patient is left feeling lonely and

isolated. Their family can assist in healing and can make the patient feel more comfortable in an

unfamiliar environment.
Bed Number Ten Reflection 3

There were many healthcare workers who did not treat Sue with the respect and caring

attitude she deserved. The first nurse she met was Bruce who stuck a tube down her throat so she

could “get used to it” (Baier & Schomaker, 1995, p.16). The tube was not yet needed and

instead of giving Sue an idea of the experiences she would encounter, it filled her with fear.

Bruce could have easily explained what was going to happen in words instead of role play if he

felt that this information was so important. He also ignored Sue’s respirator later on in the book

and told her she would just have to live with it because he could not figure out how to turn it off

instead of just calling respiratory for help (Baier & Schomaker, 1995, p.111). This incompetence

was also displayed by a nurse named Aurilla. She took Sue’s vital signs and got a pulse of sixty-

two. She reported these results as normal without realizing that Sue’s “normal” is one hundred

and twelve (Baier & Schomaker, 1995, p.142). It was this careless behavior that made the

difference between the good and bad nurses.

The doctors Sue encountered were probably the worst among all of the healthcare

workers. Many doctors today do not have the best bedside manners; however, Sue’s doctors were

awful. They did not tell Sue her diagnosis or educate her on what might occur in the future. Her

husband, Bill, had to do research on the topic since it was such a rare disease (Baier &

Schomaker, 1995, p.25). Most of the time they did not even go into Sue’s room or look at her.

Instead they asked the nurses how she was doing and went from there (Baier & Schomaker,

1995, p.172). Although the nurses should be competent enough to do an assessment, the doctors

really should have at least saw for themselves to determine what needed to be done. Sue had

multiple doctors involved in her care which in most cases would not necessarily be a bad thing.

However, these doctors did not communicate with one another let alone coordinate schedules

(Baier & Schomaker, 1995, p.176). This resulted in a lot of disturbances in Sue’s rest periods.
Bed Number Ten Reflection 4

She was constantly getting tests done or going to physical therapy instead of taking it easy and


Not all of Sue’s experiences were horrible. She had a few amazing nurses that took the

time to show that they truly cared. Little things such as Carol hanging up Sue’s get well soon

cards (Baier & Schomaker, 1995, p.64) and Harriert fighting for Sue’s right to keep her balloons

(p.164) made her feel like a person again. Their patience was also appreciated especially when

Craig used syringes to feed Sue since her cheek and lip muscles were not working yet (Baier &

Schomaker, 1995, p.196). Sue knew that once she escaped the ICU and hired private nurses,

things would get better. She was absolutely right because Elaine, Yvoone, and Marjean took

really good care of her and performed tasks such as plucking her eyebrows and cleaning her face.

They showed her the attention she needed and helped speed up Sue’s recovery.

Ineffective communication skills were the top occurrence in the novel. Findings from

previous research found that there is minimal communication between nurses and patients who

are mechanically ventilated (Dithole, et al, 2017, p.2). This is often related to poor attitude, a

lack of training, and not having the resources needed (Dithole, et al, 2017, p.5). In the book, it

was obvious that the healthcare workers had never been introduced to techniques to improve

communication. Instead, Bill had to invent devices so Sue could get the nurses’ attention. He

quickly figured out that Sue could answer yes and no questions with ease through blinking (Baier

& Schomaker, 1995, p.39). However, it was difficult for the nurses to come up with questions

and often it took too long for them to ask the right thing. Sue’s family then made a chart of

typical questions they could ask (Baier & Schomaker, 1995, p.77) but it was often ignored. Bill

then put a bell on Sue’s thigh so that when she twitched she could knock it off and it would

sound for assistance (Baier & Schomaker, 1995, p.114). Not long after, he tied a string to her toe
Bed Number Ten Reflection 5

to alert the nurse when needed. Unfortunately, these devices only worked if the nurse had the

patience and commitment to at least try and communicate with Sue.

Often, Sue was left alone without any way of calling her nurse. The study in Botswana

indicated that patients in the ICU who experience a difficulty in communication often encounter

anxiety, fear, and depression (Dithole, et al, 2017, p.1). This is exactly how Sue felt multiple

times in the book. The study found that the use of augmentative and alternative communication

(AAC) devices improved nurse-patient interaction (Dithole, et al, 2017, p.1) It also found that

after the orientation and training on these AAC devices, nurses felt empowered to reduce the

patient’s anxiety and stress through better communication (Dithole, et al, 2017, p.5). It is

important for ICU nurses to find a strategy that works for them in order to communicate with

their patients and give them better care.

The book, Bed Number Ten, gives an insight on how it feels to be on the other side of the

bed. Sometimes caregivers can become so consumed by the list of things to be completed that

they forget to show compassion when doing them. The book showed how a lack of

communication can be detrimental for the patient’s physiological well being. It is critical for

hospitals around the world to implement policies and education to healthcare providers about

communicating with their patients. It is also essential for those nurses, doctors, therapists and

anyone else that might enter the room to follow those guidelines in order to make a difference. It

is important to remember that you are caring for a person not a “number” on the room. Bed

Number Ten was a great read and should be required for anyone entering the medical field. One

day there will be no worry if a patient is receiving the appropriate care but until then it is crucial

that the profession comes together to make a change.

Bed Number Ten Reflection 6


Baier, S., & Schomaker, M. Z. (1995). Bed Number Ten. Florida: CRC Press.

Dithole, K. S., Thupayagale-Tshweneagae, G., Akpor, O. A., & Moleki, M. M. (2017).

Communication skills intervention: promoting effective communication between nurses

and mechanically ventilated patients. BMC Nursing, 16, 1–6. DOI 10.1186/s12912-017-

Bed Number Ten Reflection 7

Appendix A
Bed Number Ten Writing Assignment
25 points 20 points 17 15 0
Content/purpose Scholarly Scholarly work Insignificant or Thesis Not
Well-reasoned response to topic. work. Thesis is evident but incomplete statement and done
Thesis statement present and clearly some points thesis and supporting
defended expressed. require more supporting ideas are not
Ideas development. statements. clearly stated,
presented Thesis support Statements are inaccurate
and is not clearly address topic. or are not
supported. articulated. relevant.
Organization Logical flow Logical flow Awkward Writing is Not
Introduction, body and throughout with minor organizational illogical and done
conclusion are easily identified. the paper. inconsistencies style. Point of superficial.
Paper is presented in a logical Clear interrupt paper not Does not
order. Meets length introduction organization. always clear. meet length
requirements. Rubric turned in and Length Length requirement.
with paper. conclusion. requirement requirement
Length met. met. Rubric
requirement not turned in
is met with paper.
APA APA format 3-4 APA errors. Inconsistent 7 or more APA Not
format/References/Plagiarism is used with Current use of APA. 5-7 errors. done
Consistent and correct use of 2 or less references APA errors. References
APA format. Article publication errors. used. References are and citations
date is within 5 years. Article is Current References and older than 5 are
peer reviewed. No evidence of references citations have years. No incomplete.
plagiarism used. No few errors. No evidence of No evidence
evidence of evidence of plagiarism. of plagiarism.
plagiarism plagiarism.
Grammar and sentence Sentence Some sentence 5-6 spelling or More than 6 Not
structure and and paragraph grammatical spelling or done
Sound sentence and paragraph paragraph structure errors. grammatical
structure. Free of spelling and structure is errors. 3-4 Disorganized errors.
grammatical errors well spelling or sentence and Writing is
developed. grammatical paragraph incoherent.
No more errors. No first structure. No Uses first
than 2 person. first person. person.
spelling or
errors. No
first person