Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Teaching kindness to medical community

…In an essay to the Washington Post (Dec 12, 2006), Susan Okie outlined the experience of a friend of hers, Sylvia Stultz, who died of cancer last summer.

…Stultz ran therapeutic groups for autistic kids and when she got sick, she began to notice similarities between those uncommunicative kids and the medical profession.

…Some hospitals (and she went to all the best) were caring, responsive and the staff seemed empathetic. Others, though, made patients feel ignored and sometimes people even refused to make eye contact.

…HA can relate. She keeps faxing and calling her docs and sometimes feels they don’t even know who she is! Often, they have voicemail on during business hours. Do you hate that? HA does!

…One experience Okie related was at the National Institutes of Health. She and her friend waited from 10:15 am until 3:30 pm.

…When they finally saw the doctor, Sylvia spoke politely but directly. “Why do you keep your patients waiting five hours?” The doctor said he had no control over it.

…So she went to the director of the center, someone who did have control, supposedly. It turned out to be “block scheduling,” with all patients slotted for the same time and then the list whittled.

…Sylvia pointed out that cancer patients are often in pain and vulnerable. Waiting so long was unhealthy.

…The director said such wait times should not be tolerated.

…When she went back, the situation was vastly improved. Patients now are asked to keep a log of how long they waited. Dept heads must work on wait times and report on how they are doing.

…She also recalled having bad pain management and waiting sobbing for hours for a nurse, who then said she had had “an emergency.” Why wasn’t a woman sobbing in pain an emergency?

…She told another hosp administrator that “Somehow a grasp of me as a person and collaborator was missing too often.”

…Amen to that.

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