Take Five Minutes of Your Day
I spent a portion of my day fighting to swallow the big emotional lump in my throat and choke back tears as I attended the last of a 2010 lecture series at Bryn Mawr Hospital in suburban Philadelphia.
Surrounded by health care workers from every corner of the hospital, I squeezed into the last available seat in a row in front of my father, a cardiologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital. Within moments, an overflow of people flanked the walls and began chatting about their days but fell respectively silent as soon as the first introduction was made. We were gathered to hear former patients and their caregivers and loved ones share the behind-the-scenes details of their personal health care experiences.
Guided by a facilitator, Schwartz Center Rounds are designed to provide a forum to explore and process the non-medical dimensions of patient care.
The individuals who spoke today ranged from the parents of a child who recovered from a severe case of encephalitis to a young nurse who is a two-time survivor of a rare form of cancer. The parents of these individuals expressed the palpable pain of having a sick child and clearly detailed what they, as caregivers, needed from the institutions caring for their children. The nurse shared the ways in which her experience as a patient helped her to develop more compassion for her current patients and to understand the needs of the caregivers.
As each speaker shared the details of his/her emotionally and physically challenging journey, there was one common message throughout. Each caregiver overwhelmingly recognized the impact of the small gestures made by their loved one's health care workers.
While everyone in the room applauded the heroes for their struggles, it took all the energy in my body not to leap over the chairs and give my father a big hug. While my father did not play a role in those being recognized today, I do know that he does his individual best to meet as many of his patients' needs as humanly possible.
Two and a half years ago, my father was a patient in his own hospital. Like his colleague who spoke today, he gained more tools for his arsenal of patient care through his experience as a patient and my family and I experienced the caregiver end of patient care. That hug would have been as much for the impact he makes as a health care provider as it would have been for his role as my father.
The mission of the lecture series, out of The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, is to promote compassionate health care so that patients and their professional caregivers relate to one another in a way that provides hope to the patient, support to caregivers and sustenance to the healing process.
The small boy's mother shared that her son was determined to get better to meet his physician's standing challenge to play a game on Xbox 360 together; the mother of a baby in the NICU recalled how touched she was that the unit secretary brought her blankets and pillows in the waiting room; and yet another mother of a patient recalled the importance of her daughter's nurse visiting to just talk about anything, anything but cancer.
The attendees were visibly appreciative of the friendly reminder to take five minutes out of each day to really talk to the families and loved ones of patients. In health care, this reminder is more important than ever. Caregivers need to be cared for in a different way than the patients, but they need to be cared for.
When was the last time you asked the spouse, mother, brother or daughter of a patient if they had taken the time to eat something today?