It has been my privilege to walk with others in their personal journey of suffering. I had the opportunity to work with a support group for families coping with a life-threatening illness for ten years back in the 80's and 90's. Through the years I have learned about medical procedures, medications, insurance claims and codes, and so much more. Most importantly, I learned the value of hope.
Today, I had the privilege of being on a ZOOM call with some talented doctors and other professionals to discuss a couple of topics. I am grateful to Dr. Kristin Collier for her work in this field and for alerting me to this event. Dr. Collier is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Michigan, but what really caught my eye was another title she holds. She is the Director of the University of Michigan Medical School Program on Health, Spirituality, & Religion. Now that is exciting news to know that this topic is being addressed in medical school.
The main presenter (facilitator) today was Dr. Wes Ely. His Twitter account labels him as Husband and Dad first. However, his role today came from his experience as an Intensive Care Unit Doctor at Vanderbilt University and the Nashville Veterans Administration. This was my first encounter with Dr. Ely. Wow! I learned so much from him today, and walked away with some good sound bites too.
How does Dr. Ely stay focused on the whole person? Foam in, foam out. As he walks into a patient's room and sanitizes his hands he offers a brief prayer. "Help me see the person in the patient." Simple--but very profound. Another brief prayer as he sanitizes his hands on the way out keeps him centered.
The nuances of the way Dr. Ely forms questions also sets the tone. Instead of, "What's the matter?" he will ask something like, "What matters to you today?" He realizes the answer to that question may come with much more than a description of an ache or a pain the patient is experiencing at the moment. It will provide a broader context in many circumstances. That is important to Dr. Ely. He says it plainly, "I am not a technician or a provider. I am a physician." It was so refreshing to listen to a doctor who understands the necessity of seeing "the person in the patient."
The first topic covered today was entitled, "Dehumanization During COVID-19: Resurrection of the Family as Part of the Patient's Healing Plan." It has personally broken my heart to watch people in hospitals and nursing homes sit in isolation for the last nine months (and counting). We have done irreparable harm to many families with such restrictive rules that have been in place through COVID. From a clergy perspective, it was bad enough that we allowed the government to shut down our churches. However, not allowing clergy to have regular visits with the hospitalized and those in nursing homes took it to an even more serious level for me. As someone who has been a patient in a hospital more times than I care to count, how can anyone think it is a good idea to deprive people of family support and the spiritual care of their pastors and clergy?
Many thanks to Dr. Collier and Dr. Ely for bringing the topic out into the open today. My anger over the last nine months at this situation has been palpable. Domestic violence, depression, suicide attempts, and a laundry list of other issues have been exacerbated by the social isolation imposed upon our people. It is good to know there are medical personnel seeking to suggest alternative methods with the increased knowledge we now have of the virus. Blessings to each of you in those endeavors!
The second topic covered was entitled, "Barriers to Addressing the Spiritual and Religious Needs of Patients and Families in the Intensive Care Unit: A Qualitative Study of Critical Care Physicians."
Many thanks to the authors of this work:
Christian K. Alch, MD
Christina L. Wright, PhD
Kristin M. Collier, MD
Philip J. Choi, MD
As I watch the political upheaval in our country and see all the turmoil that bombards our newsfeeds each day, today I find great joy in knowing that there are good people simply striving to make our world a better place by promoting wholistic health. Many thanks to all of the physicians and therapists who took part in today's discussion. I am humbled to have been just a small part of the discussion. Thank you!