When the Medical Writer Becomes the Patient

January 30, 2019 | Blog | 2 comments

I’ve written on healthcare topics for nearly 20 years: Medical devices, pharmaceuticals, healthcare supply chain, sterile processing of surgical instruments, medical equipment maintenance, quality management,  healthcare data, unique device identification (UDI), cybersecurity, group purchasing organizations (GPOs), distributors, etc. etc., etc.

And during these two decades I’ve seen and learned a lot. I can remember being in my early 20s down in Florida to arrange a video shoot with a prominent anesthesiologist. I showed up in his department wearing my suit and carrying my briefcase bag when he asked me to follow him. He took me behind the scenes where I saw a patient unconscious/asleep on a table in a hallway and thought to myself “I don’t think I should be in here.” Later that night after the video shoot this doctor and I ate Chinese food together in a somewhat seedy strip mall restaurant. (Thank god for tightened regulations around patient safety and privacy!).

In more recent years I went to tour a sterile processing department in a Massachusetts hospital. Wearing a nice business dress, again with briefcase bag in hand, I showed up in the department. The director of CS/SPD looked and laughed, handing me a protective jumpsuit to wear over my clothes and a cap for my abundance of hair. He failed to mention when we arranged the interview that it was best that I dressed casual – this made sense as we entered a decontamination area containing carts full of bloody, tissue laden surgical instruments.

My experience as a healthcare writer has given me a tremendous respect for those who work in the industry – not only physicians and nurses, but sterile processing technicians, supply chain teams and others who each play a critical role in patient care.

So as I face open heart surgery next week, I go into it with more knowledge than the average patient. Honestly I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. It has left me with questions such as:

  • Will the surgery team have the supplies they need to perform my surgery?
  • Will the instruments used on me truly be clean and sterilized?
  • Will the operating room (OR) run into any workflow issues that will delay my surgical start time?
  • Will the nurses on my unit be using standardized bundles of products aimed at providing safe and effective care? Particularly those aimed at reducing the risk of infection?
  • In the ICU and in the step down unit, will the nursing staff be distracted by clinical nuisance alarms from the host of monitors used on me and other patients?
  • Will anyone be documenting UDI information for the supplies used on me, in the event of a recall?
  • Will cybercriminals hack into my patient records, or worse into the medical devices used on me???

And I’m sure a few more questions will pop into my head while I’m heading into the OR.

Even with all of these questions swirling around my head I have faith that those providers and others around me will do their best to ensure I leave that hospital better than I came in.

I’m in the process of assembling a gift basket for my clinical care team to express my appreciation (see photo). I figured with the physical and emotional demands of their jobs, they could use a laugh. I need some other non-nurse related items – think I can find something funny for my respiratory therapist?




Kara L. Nadeau

Founder and President of KLN Communications, Inc.


  • Rob Turbett January 30, 2019 at 5:47 pm | Reply


    Best of luck with your procedure. It’s very interesting knowing what we know…

    Reminds me of when my surgeon friend came out after performing my sons spine surgery.
    He said “your son did great”. My response was-” I know that- what I really want to know is how did YOU do?”


    1. Kara L. Nadeau January 30, 2019 at 6:49 pm | Reply

      Thanks Rob! When I first started out in life sciences Nellcor was a client for many years – to this day when a clinician puts a pulse oximetry sensor on my finger I always look down to check the brand – being in this industry really does change your perspective on things 🙂