Our words create our world...
In advancing Relationship-Based Care as our care delivery system, we strive for our patients and their families to feel known and cared for by their nurses. As a profession, nursing's central work revolves around the therapeutic relationships we develop with patients and their families.
At BWH and throughout Partners, we are most fortunate to have access to state-of-the-art technology, equipment and IT systems, some of the best available in health care. For example, we are preparing to go live with Partners eCare in May 2015. This electronic health record, which will travel with patients across the Partners system, will provide us as nurses with the means to begin "know" our patients and anticipate their needs, as soon as they are assigned to us-even before they physically arrive in the unit/area. Although this tool will enable our knowing, it will also create complexities which we must attend to.
We must be aware of the words we use to describe our patients and their challenges. Today we talk about the ethics of inter-shift report and the challenge of describing without judgment the patient's symptoms and behaviors in order to avoid labeling the patient and potentially impacting future encounters with their providers. Documentation will be even more crucial in Partners eCare, as a "label" may travel in perpetuity with the patient across the continuum of care.
In the future, as in our current world of documentation, we access a patient's record only if we are a member of the patient's current care team. Even if well-intended, anything beyond this inquiry is a violation of the patient's privacy, our policies and federal law.
Every person deserves to feel known and valued as a unique human being. We want to communicate through the medical record all information that is vital to advance the person's health and human potential. In doing so, we must recognize the power of words. Words can positively or negatively impact future providers' responses to patients.
I recently viewed a YouTube video called "The Power of Words." In it, a blind man on the street is begging for change, sitting beside a sign that reads, "I am blind." No one stopped, and few offered money. A young woman changed the sign and, suddenly, many stopped to donate. She returned later, and the blind man asked her what she had done to make this happen. She states, "I said the same thing, only differently." The sign read, "It is a beautiful day, and I can't see it." Such a profound example of the power of words.
I hope that you enjoyed our beautiful fall in New England and, as always, it is my pleasure to serve you.
With warm regards,
Jackie Somerville, RN, PhD
Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services