It was nearly 11 months ago when a lifelong friend, Sarah was tragically hit by a car while riding her bike. She was rushed to a nearby trauma center where she remained in critical condition for days. Aspiration pneumonia and a stroke were among the complications that ensued in the following weeks. But I’m glad to say that she is back on her feet today thanks to modern medicine and lots of personal fortitude.
This week, for the first time, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sarah and her husband, Brian and heard the details of her accident and recovery. Sarah has little memory of her first 2 weeks that were spent in ICU. But for Brian, every detail from the first call to the discharge is etched in his memory forever. As he recapped the experience, I was impressed by the way he forged a strong partnership with the medical team that gave him strength, information and a sense that he was a welcomed member of the care team.
We talk a lot in healthcare about patient and family-centered care but unfortunately in many situations it’s just lip service. In Brian’s case, it was a true partnership. Was it perfect? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But it became a partnership that they feel very good about and would rate the hospital and care team very highly on. Brian quickly discovered that the handoffs left information gaps between shifts and intensivist rotations. He learned he had to arrive at 6:30 am in order to be present for rounds so that he could fill in information gaps himself. As he recounted the stories, I was amazed that he was assertive enough to chime in during rounds to add details about Sarah’s labs and history.
From Brian’s perspective, the doctors and nurses were smart, attentive and caring. But as an IT expert, Brian knows that handoffs are still often fraught with information gaps that aren’t filled unless you read the entire EMR. Change in shifts and staff can create dangerous lapses in information. Because of this, Brian became the gap-filler and a valued member of the team. Never once did he feel that he wasn’t welcomed to be there for report or to add input and ask questions. What he described was a wonderful, confidence-building partnership. Their description of a true partnership-in-action is one that I’d love to see replicated across the country a million times a day. Let’s make it happen.