A patient’s advice on how to improve the health care experience

Too often patients are not treated as individuals, when in a hospital environment.  This is a great article to help all hospital employees deal with a patient in a very difficult settings

| PATIENT

Every patient has a story and an experience, and my patient experience began on July 6, 2004.

One month after graduating from high school, I was involved in a near-fatal car accident. My heart shifted across my chest, lungs collapsed, major organs were either lacerated or failed completely, my pelvis was shattered, and I lost 60 percent of my blood. I was airlifted to shock trauma near death and underwent immediate surgery: 14 lifesaving surgeries total. On life support and in critical condition, I was then placed in a medically induced coma for the next two months.

During my time in ICU, I had dozens of great care providers looking after me, but there were also several care providers that were excellent. The difference came from their level of compassion and communication.

Compassion

The health care providers who stood out to us not only did an amazing job in taking care of my medical needs, but went a step further by focusing on the emotional and psychological well-being of me and my parents. These hard-working men and women walked into my room with a smile on their faces on a daily basis, addressed me by my name, read my get well cards on the wall, and spoke to my family. There was a sense of trust developing each time we saw them. Even at times when my visual field was restricted to the ceiling or a wall in my room, I could instantly recognize their uplifting energy.

Within each person, whether said or not, the challenge was an internal battle, conducted privately for themselves, but the health care provider played an important part in that battle. Victory was measured in the smallest increments, like blinking, or moving a finger, but most importantly, victory was achieved through the compassionate work of my care providers.

I believe in health care because my providers believed in me when I didn’t have the strength to believe in myself.

  • Always treat the patient as a person and not just an injured body.
  • Showing sincerity and empathy goes a long way with the patient and his or her family.
  • Every time you leave one room and enter another room, it is important to re-ground your thoughts.
  • Make a connection with the patient by speaking to their family and friends.

Communication

Due to a concussion I sustained from the accident, I woke up in a hospital bed with no memory of what happened to me, so I depended on the people around me to communicate what was taking place. Communication was both verbal and nonverbal.

I was somewhat coherent of my surroundings during the second half of my coma, and whenever someone walked into my room, I was instantly attuned to their presence, mood, actions, positive or negative energy, and their voice. I was grateful for their words because they would help reorient me in the moment on my condition, help prepare me for the next challenge ahead, or mention things that made a connection with me as a person and motivate me to continue on in the recovery process. I craved the interaction and conversation because it helped to momentarily transport me from my situation.

My favorite care providers spoke to me as a person, rather than just a comatose patient in a hospital bed.

  • Approach any conversation with a patient or family member that helps put them at ease, as difficult as this may be sometimes. Even the tone of a voice can be significant.
  • The family wants answers on the patient’s condition, and although you sometimes cannot give any answers, you can take the time to listen and address their concerns.
  • Listen to the feedback from the people who know the patient best (parents, family, significant others, and close friends) because they may notice a small life-saving detail in the patient that the care providers are unable to see.
  • In most cases, the people closest to the patient have an incredible workload just trying to take care of the patient. Help the family designate a family spokesperson to share news and updates on the status of the patient.
  • Talk to your patients, address them by name, maintain eye contact, assume a relaxed posture, listen to them, and focus on creating a positive energy around them

When you are working with a patient, their health status is always the top priority. You do everything in your knowledge to give them the proper medical treatment. After everything is medically attended to, then it is time to heal the person — the individual — by showing empathy, compassion, and an understanding of what he or she is going through.

By addressing both sides of the spectrum, you are making a positive impact and helping to improve the overall patient experience.

Brian Boyle is a patient.

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