This morning on the ward round the consultant has a sensitive subject to raise with one of the patients: a DNACPR decision. It’s her opinion that resuscitation would not be in this man’s interests, so she wants to discuss this with him.
She stands in close to his bed and I pull the curtains round, the most privacy we can manage. The consultant outlines what she thinks and why, and then pauses for a moment of thoughtful silence to allow the patient to consider what’s been said. But rather than silence, what fills that pause is the sound of Kylie Minogue singing ‘I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky’.
The TV at the end of the bay is, as usual, tuned in to a popular music station, the volume turned up to high to accommodate the presbycusis experienced by the majority of our patients.
The playlist consists entirely of relentlessly upbeat pop songs from a few decades ago. I find it generally quite irritating, but occasionally, I admit, I find myself singing along in my head with some catchy chorus against my better judgement.
Never before, though, has its intrusion seemed quite so grotesquely inappropriate.
It suddenly makes me think about how this soundtrack to their stay might affect the patients more generally. It’s all very well, perhaps, if you’re just in for a few days with something not too life-threatening and you like your cheesy classics.
But what about the patients who are going through a more difficult time, not getting better, even dying? Boy Meets Girl and Bananarama don’t necessarily set the right tone.
Mind you, it could be worse - the ward next door seems to subject its unfortunate patients to a daily dose of Jeremy Kyle.
Where I worked before, they always seemed to have an old-style Western on, so the ward round was frequently punctuated by a sudden thundering of hooves or the rattle of gunfire. While somewhat incongruous, this never really seemed to offend or upset anyone.
But I suppose it’s an inevitable problem with having one television for a whole bay of patients: you can never really cater to everyone’s tastes. One hospital I worked in did have small personal TVs for each patient, with headphones, though I think they had to pay to watch them.
To date, as far as I know, no-one has actually complained about the music channel in our ward. But next time there’s something important to say, I’ll be going in search of the remote control beforehand.
By the Secret Doctor. Read the blog and follow @TheSecretDr on Twitter
Do you have music blaring in the background of where you work? Use the comments section below
I once started to verify a man's death in a side room with Uptown Funk playing, I had to switch it off and couldn't listen to it for weeks afterwards, still I like to think maybe the music kept him company as he passed away.
I remember delivering a baby and on handing it to the mother Kelis' 'I hate you so much right now' was playing on the radio in theatre. Oops.
I ended up in an elderly care ward last year after breaking a bone as although I am only 64 I live alone and there was nowhere else to put me. There was the same problem but worse as the songs were 1950s stuff which I hated!! It seemed to be put on to keep noisy, deaf patients quiet!
We could start a list of the most inappropriate music for any ward, out patient waiting room etc.
How about Tom Jones' Sex Bomb for the erectile dysfunction clinic?
Cringeworthy, but it could be worse: imagine if Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive had come on.
I can recall doing Medicine for the elderly and, while setting up a syringe driver, an auxillary nurse came into the room quietly singing 'Knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door...'. Never had a song been more apt.
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