This year marked the first in which BWH selected the first group of Thomson Compassionate Care Scholars, 16 individuals, nominated by their peers in recognition of their commitment to humanistic and compassionate care.
Recently, BWH Nurse had the chance to sit down with four nurses who were honored as Compassionate Care Scholars in 2000—Patricia Daigneault, RN, BSN, a nurse practitioner with 28 years of experience at Brigham Internal Medicine Associates (BIMA); Cecilia O’Malley, RN, MSN, a nurse practitioner who has served Brookside Community Health Center for 20 years; Euris “Shirley” Woodroffe, RN, BSN, who has been at BWH for 28 years and is currently a staff nurse on 15CD; and Amanda Young, RN, BSN, who came to BWH from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and has worked for two years on 15CD.
Q: What does it mean to deliver compassionate care?
A: Amanda: Doing simple little things for patients—listening to them, pushing the bedside table closer, being polite, making sure their needs are met.
Patricia: Our patients come from a variety of social backgrounds. We need to factor in their social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being in order to treat the total patient with utmost dignity and respect.
Q: How do you build compassion into your care?
A: Cecilia: I make a point of remembering each patient.
I once mistakenly introduced myself
to someone I’d already met. That can make patients feel insignificant.
Before entering the room, I scan the record for my handwriting so that I can remark about their last visit and
connect on a personal level.
Shirley: Compassionate care is “going beyond.” I recently had a patient who was so depressed after surgery he said, “I don’t want to live.” I responded that I was here for him, concerned about his well-being-- that if he feels bad, I feel bad too that I’m not fulfilling my job.
Q: Let’s talk more about the total patient.
A: Patricia: In an ambulatory
practice, you see some patients
for many years, which helps me
better understand their personal
life and lifestyle. Recently a
patient told me she felt terrible,
which went beyond her physical
ailments. I knew her daughter had died of lymphoma and she was
trying to raise two granddaughters who had dropped out of school—
all these problems on top of
hypertension, diabetes and chronic musculoskeletal pain. I tried to
find something positive in her life
to focus on.
Amanda: Connecting on a personal level is more challenging in the hospital setting. It’s hard to build a relationship and trust in a short period
of time, but we have to try. Doing
the little things can go a long way.
Q: What can you do about time pressure?
A: Cecelia: You can still be kind and compassionate in a few minutes. You may have only seven minutes, but make it their seven minutes.
Q: What about the patient perspective?
A: Shirley: Whenever possible,
I allow patients to make decisions on certain health issues. Offer a simple choice, “Do you prefer a tablet or capsule?” Guide them by asking, “This is what some people do, but what would work best for you?”
Cecilia: Take time to explain things, particularly to someone who’s not literate. Many patients can’t read the brochures. If there is computer monitor in the exam room between you and the patient, turn it around so they also can see.
Q: How do professional and personal dynamics affect compassionate care?
A: Amanda: Hospital patients today seem so much sicker, which can increase the stress level on the staff. It’s important to support other staff members.
Patricia: Be sure you have support in your personal life: systems at home, emotional and physical outlets like exercise or sports.
Q: What can BWH do to further encourage compassionate care?
A: Amanda: Sometimes it’s necessary to escort a patient to another part of the hospital, taking time away from other patients. It would help to increase the availability of the escort and interpreter services.
Cecilia: We also could use support with insurance dilemmas, which consume a lot of time.
Shirley: On the individual patient level, we need to share information
as a team—physicians, nurses, care coordinators, escorts, housekeeping. By seeing that everyone is working together, the patient feels more secure.
Patricia: The hospital should continue to recognize those who exemplify compassionate care.
These individuals can serve as role models for current and future employees who join out team.
Q: What final message would you like to share with your coworkers?
A: Patricia: Go the extra mile, keep working on an issue until its resolved. Never turn away anyone who needs help. Ask yourself,
“Am I doing the best I can?”
Shirley: We don’t always have the time that we’d like. We’re busy giving medications, doing tests and procedures to improve patients’ health. But by talking with a patient, you can learn more about the person that affects their total well being. Sometimes the best medicine is just listening.