The Paper Towel Solution

image So, I’m sitting up with Maggie in her hospital room at 3:30 a.m., watching The Princess Bride (her favorite movie). No better time than this to finish off an article I’ve been working on the past several weeks.

As I’ve been watching various nurses, doctors, and other staff help my daughter, I’ve been paying particular attention to how they take notes. Do they use a paper notebook, PDA, Tablet, laptop, etc? Are they struggling with their solution? Why does their current solution work for them so well. What I found really surprised me.

Here at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the tool of choice in the Pediatrics ICU and on the Neurology floor, is the paper towel. Almost every nurse and therapist who has worked with Maggie in the ICU took their notes using a paper towel, and for good reason: Every room has a ready supply, they are easy to write on, they are easily accessible, they fold up nicely in a pocket, they are cheap, they are tri-fold, and they can easily adapt to almost any writing surface or small space. It is amazing how quick and efficient it was for them to grab a paper towel, jot their note, and move on.  When the nurses were prepping Maggie for a procedure, part of their “standard process” was to grab three paper towels to takes notes on while the doctor did his work or check off a “To Do” list. It wasn’t unusual at all to see several of these notes taped to the window in a nurse’s station for “important” things to remember about a patient. I can’t imagine a tablet pc being a better solution for them, especially in the tight confines of an ICU room and how quickly they are adapting to changing scenarios.

Their efficient process has even begun to rub off on me; so much so, that at times, I’ve found myself reaching for a paper towel to jot a quick note down from the doctor, and then shove it in to my pocket for later reading. I don’t know that I’d call myself a paper-towel convert, but I certainly appreciate how the nurses have found a solution that works for them and helps them care for children in the most productive way possible.

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